Semantics aside, the concerns raised by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in his recent interview with a leading daily are widely shared by many in the Pakistani public sphere. That militant outfits must not be allowed to use our territory to further their ill-designs is a no brainer. However, Nawaz’s latest statement came in the backdrop of a campaign he and his daughter Maryam Nawaz have been running against his ouster in the Panama Papers case. During public rallies held across the country, the father and daughter duo have consistently called for civilian supremacy. While the interview itself was quite unremarkable given the issue of Mumbai attacks has extensively been discussed already, it led to needless outrage in right-wing and chauvinist segments of the media in Pakistan and India. Resultantly, the National Security Committee came into action, and, then, the PML-N parliamentary party also expressed concerns over the three-time Prime Minister’s ‘harsh rhetoric’. Strangely enough, these concerns have also been endorsed by the leading English language daily that published the interview on grounds that Nawaz’s approach may break up his party ahead of the upcoming general elections. It is a fact that Nawaz shares responsibility for not having fixed the imbalance of elected and unelected institutions during his time in office. He neither showed any will to rid the constitution of excrements introduced by dictators in the past nor tried to strength civilian institutions like the Parliament and its standing committees and the foreign and defence ministries. However, it is equally obvious that Nawaz and his daughter’s latest campaign has revolved around a principle contradiction in the Pakistani political system. That his rhetoric has intensified over time is beside the point. The important aspect, for the Pakistani democracy, is that the issue of civilian supremacy needs to be made into an election issue. The democrats can try all they want but they won’t succeed in strengthening democracy until the ghosts of our pasts are exorcised fully. That requires confronting blunders of the past and dealing with undemocratic sensibilities in the present. That this rhetoric may cost the elder Sharif’s party the election is a concern that emanates from the fact that the PML-N, like most other mainstream parties, lacks an organised structure across the country. Many PML-N lawmakers in the parliamentary party that recently raised concerns over Nawaz’s rhetoric are quintessential electables that keep hoping parties based on political climate. To retain them, it becomes expedient to adopt a measured line. But those invested in strengthening democracy, including Nawaz and his daughter, ought to ask themselves: Is this the lot that is likely to solve the principle contradiction of the polity? The answer is a resounding no. Nawaz’s political discourse of civilian supremacy is qualitatively different from his younger brother’s discourse of governance and delivery in the Punjab. However, Nawaz has yet to match this discourse with a principled politics on the ground. During his ongoing campaign, for example, he has yet to effectively reach out to the marginalised groups and their protest movements. These groups have been at the losing end of the imbalance of power between elected and unelected institutions. Course correction will necessarily be through joint efforts with these groups. Secondly, he must give a roadmap for exact reforms the PML-N will introduce if given another term in power to strengthen the Parliament and all other civilian institutions. Finally, he also needs to address the issue of his party’s internal structures that lack democracy and rely on factions brought together mostly by political compulsion rather than by political ideology. * Published in Daily Times, May 21st 2018.