A second democratically elected government, this time led by the PMLN, has completed its full five-year term. The first one was led by the PPP-P. Both these governments had remained politically highly unstable during their respective terms,at times conveying the impression that they were living from moment to moment and could collapse any day. That their respective governance was extremely bad was never in doubt but both lost their respective Prime Ministers much before the end of their respective terms not because of bad governance but because the country’s superior judiciary had found them guilty of transgressing the ‘law of the land.’ During these ten tumultuous years the security forces launched three fairly successful military operations against terrorists — Rah-i-Raast, Zarb-i-Azb and the on-going Radul Fasaad. And at the fag-end of the PMLN’s tenure Pakistan got rid of its national shame called ‘Federally Administered Tribal Area’ which had lingered on all these 70 years. Fata has now been merged with Khyber Pukhtunkhwa. The first and the last years of the PMLN government that had won the 2013 elections with more than two-third majority were ‘lost’ years for the ruling Party. In the first year it was pushed to the wall by a politically resurgent PTI. A long-drawn exceedingly effective sit-in by the PTI had all but caught the government by its neck which it managed to save by the skin of its teeth as all political parties represented in Parliament minus Imran’s Party came to the rescue of the beleaguered government fearing an imminent Army induced regime change. The last year of the PMLN tenure saw the leader of the Party, Nawaz Sharif desperately fighting for his political survival. First, he was ousted from the Prime Minister’s office by the Supreme Court for not being ‘Sadiq’ and ‘Amin’ as required under the Constitutional Clause 62(1) (f). Next, on the same grounds the SC disqualified him from holding any political office. The disqualification is for life. And since, he is being tried in a NAB Court for ‘owning’ assets beyond his means. The year 2015 was also exceedingly eventful as during this year one saw the Sindh’s urban based political Party MQM breaking up into a number of factions as its self-styled, London-based ‘Quaid’ was ‘legally’ declared a traitor and was forced to cut off all links with MQM-Pakistan while at the same time his telephonic speeches from London were also banned. While the Rangers took effective care of the Altaf-led MQM restoring relative peace in urban Sindh, particularly in Karachi, its efforts to tame the PPP, Sindh’s ruling Party were not as effective. Zardari’s closest friends Dr Asim Hussain and Anver Majid were hounded with the first named having been arrested under terrorism charges. Besides a number of government officials, ministers and party members were rounded up, mostly on corruption charges. But Zardari’s PPP has survived these onslaughts and is now well on the way to win the province back come elections 2018. Balochistan underwent a new kind of political experiment. Chief Minister Dr. Abdul Malik of National Party, under a mutually agreed formula, ruled the province for the first half of the five-year tenure replaced subsequently by a coalition led by PMLN’s Sanaullah Zehri. However, with just about five months to go before his tenure ended, Zehri was shown the door by a stage managed rebellion within the coalition and a new government was installed in Quetta led by an oven-fresh political Party — the Balochistan Awami Party (BAP) — with Abdul Qudus Bizenjo installed as the Chief Minister of the province. Following the March 3, 2018 Senate elections the PMLN emerged as the largest single party in the upper house. But a stage-managed coalition between two staunch rivals — the PPP and PTI — saw an implausible Sadiq Sanjrani, a BAP candidate winning the post of Senate Chairman and Saleem Mandviwala of PPP getting the Deputy Chairman slot. PTI seems to be in deep trouble because it now seems to have in the Party as many as three, if not more electables for each of the constituencies that are known to be pro-PTI As the PMLN ‘Quaid’ started his political fight back with the so-called ‘long march’ on the GT road soon after he was disqualified by the Supreme Court, there appeared the first chink in the Party’s armour as one of PMLN’s founder members, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan advised his leader ‘patience’ warning him as well against attacking the security institutions and the Superior Judiciary. Nawaz loyalists hit back. Chaudhry protested but did not leave the Party and seems perhaps to be bidding his time to take over the PMLN after Nawaz, as anticipated, is finally sent to jail by the NAB court. As Nawaz kept attacking the powers that be and the judiciary, the faint-hearted in the Party started looking around for safer pastures. And his Dawn interview about the Mumbai massacre and our non-state actors added to their panic. A number of the so-called electable have already left the PMLN and joined the PTI. Resultantly the PTI seems to be in deep trouble because it now seems to have in the Party as many as three, if not more electables for each of the constituencies that are known to be pro-PTI. A recent survey by the PILDAT, a think tank, alleges that the forthcoming polls have already been pre-rigged against the incumbent PMLN as according to results of the survey the neutrality of the three main actors — the Army, the Judiciary and the Media — has been compromised. Still, Gilani Research Organisation’s recent polls insist that the PMLN would win enough seats to form the government. That despite the decidedly bad governance and extreme political instability in the country the elected government could complete its full term of five years confronts one with a number of questions: Is democracy finally taking roots in the country? Have the non-elected state institutions finally willingly agreed to contain themselves within their respective domains as defined by the Constitution? Or are we passing through a phase during which the process of handing over by the powers-that-be and taking over by the elected civilians is proceeding tentatively side-stepping unintended accidents that had frustrated past attempts at establishing genuine democratic institutions in the country. The writer is a senior journalist based in Islamabad. He served as the Executive Editor of Express Tribune until 2014 Published in Daily Times, May 31st 2018.