For the first time in Pakistani history, the Parliament has completed two full terms. The first Parliament was elected on a limited franchise in 1946 and continued till 1955—it kept extending its tenure, much like the following dictatorships. Our first real democratically elected Parliament in 1970 wasn’t allowed to meet, since the people elected the wrong party according to the generals, and the rump of that parliament (after the separation of the majority population and even the parliament itself, as parliament house was in Dhaka!), first acted as the constituent assembly for the 1973 constitution, and then gave itself another five years of rule. However, Zulifikar Ali Bhutto cut those five years short in 1977 when he called for early elections hoping that he would win a landslide. After that, from 1988 till the 1999 coup, we had four elections in just over a decade, and a ping-pong match between Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif for the Prime Minister’s (PM) office. With this background, it has to be acknowledged that two parliaments finishing their tenure is a great feat indeed. That no PM has been able to complete his term, is of course, a matter of concern. But let’s just take it one step at a time. This is not to say that the past ten years been easy. A lot still needs to be done, but still we should focus on the part of the glass that is full. Over the past ten years, we have had the landmark 18th amendment which made the federation stronger; the name of the erstwhile NWFP was changed to Khyber Pakhtunkawa (KP); the governments passed several laws for the protection of women’s rights; the National Finance Award was agreed on after a delay of several years; a census, however flawed, was held after nearly two decades; and, just as the PML-N government finished its term, FATA was merged with KP. This is quite an achievement for the civilian governments, especially since they were busy looking over their shoulder to watch out from attacks from certain state institutions. Two parliaments finishing their tenure is a great feat indeed. That no PM has been able to complete his term, is of course, a matter of concern. But let’s just take it one step at a time A lot of what has been mentioned above was possible by going against the tide. Making Pakistan more federal means that it will not be easy for Islamabad to pull strings throughout Pakistan. Merging FATA would mean that millions of peoples’ civil rights would be protected. Furthermore, FATA could no longer be treated like the Wild West of Pakistan, where everything from gunrunning to smuggling and harbouring terrorists used to be the norm. Similarly, against all odds, politicians did agree on how to distribute resources in the country under the finance award, and did manage to conduct a census despite strong reservations in some quarters. Of course, democracy’s journey in Pakistan has just begun, and there are several problems that need to be tackled. However, it is important to remember that this is a very gradual process, and hiccups along the way do not mean that democracy is bad or that Pakistan is unsuited for it. It took Britain centuries to develop democracy, and in so many ways, it is still a work in progress there. We must not be so impatient and begin to disparage the system itself in just a couple of elections. General Iskandar Mirza, the first person to declare martial law in Pakistan in October 1958, once declared in 1954 that ‘Democracy has to be controlled. We need to save the people from themselves…’ General sahib of course did not trust the people to make the “right decision” and therefore wanted to teach them how to make the “right choice”. But democracy is when the real will of the people is realised through a free and fair election, and when politicians respect and follow that will. On July 25, we will get a chance to prove General Mirza wrong. Please try not to prove him right. The writer teaches at IT University Lahore and is the author of ‘A Princely Affair: The Accession and Integration of the Princely States of Pakistan, 1947-55.’ He tweets at @BangashYK Published in Daily Times, June 5th 2018.