As another democratic transition is underway, it is necessary to remind ourselves that the relative nature of the civil-military relationship has reversed; whereas the military establishment was on defence in 2007 and whereas people had an elevated level of belief in civilian governance, the hopes have dismayed as of today. The signs of political alienation are obvious. The political leadership in the country not only could not exert influence over contested areas of national discourse, namely the foreign and security policy vis-à-vis the West and its war on terror, it failed to reclaim its own domains of control such as economic policy (the role of military establishment in CPEC must be a case in sight). On its face, the democratic process can claim some credible successes. During the first half (2007-13), the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP)-led government restored an overly-joyous judiciary, albeit under public pressure, conducted the Swat operation to cleanse the area of terrorists. It passed the eighteenth constitutional amendment, introduced legislation for women rights, streamlined Gilgit-Baltistan by awarding it administrative control equal to the provincial level, increased economic cooperation with China and Iran, awarded Balochistan greater economic rights, and gladly passed on the reins of power to Pakistan Muslim League — Noon (PML-N) after the latter won general elections in 2013. During the second half of this democratic decade, agricultural growth kept on increasing, inflation reduced as compared to 2013, tax revenue increased, national energy production rose, several projects under CPEC were signed and implemented, and Zarb-e-Azb was launched in the-then FATA. This government also passed a constitutional amendment to declare FATA a part of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Pakistan also redirected its foreign policy more towards Moscow, Beijing, and Istanbul, and stepped away from Washington. The fact that the two parliaments completed their respective terms is in itself a commendable achievement, given the political history of Pakistan. Whereas it seems that Imran Khan and his Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have some prospects of forming the next democratic government, the parliament seems to be even more vibrant by hosting Asif Ali Zardari, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, Shahbaz Sharif and various newcomers. However, during the democratic decade, the overall ‘quality’ of governance deteriorated quite significantly. The WGI indicators of good governance as approved by the World Bank — voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption — show that Pakistan struggled on all accounts, losing in most of them or at least showing an abject nature of stagnation. A question must be asked: whereas the democratic process succeeded on some policy levels, why has it been impotent in ‘delivering’ in terms of ‘quality’ of good governance? The rugged nature of civil-military relations requires a fresh re-evaluation to not only answer this significant question but also to set a new direction of the future of political stability in the country. The classic nature of academic discourse about civil-military relations, at least within the context of Pakistan, has treated the question from a zero-sum perspective. Eminent local, as well as foreign scholars, have argued about civilian supremacy as the only solution bringing stability in the country. Any such solution, the argument goes, must rest upon the unquestionable civilian control over national security and foreign policies as well. Constitutionally, since the parliament is supreme, it must exert its control over all the institutions of the country, including judiciary and military. The problem is that political class has failed to live up to the challenge of succeeding on several issues, including the indicators of good governance as pronounced by the World Bank and other institutions. Various factors, such as regional, ethnic, and sectarian interests, have turned an already crippled capacity of the political class into impotency. The charges of corruption, among other allegations, are damaging to the legitimacy of the political class; irrespective of the reality that civil-military wrangling resulted in the ouster of Nawaz Sharif, it remains a fact that he miserably failed to provide an adequate trail of the wealth he and his scions amassed in Great Britain and elsewhere. Expecting that the current political class will bring the military establishment under civilian control is unthinkable at its best. There are, therefore, two probable scenarios: one being extremely bleak and other being somewhat promising. Assuming there is a widespread agreement within contemporary political leadership to bring the institutions under civilian control, the future politics in Pakistan will invite institutional clash. Since political leadership is corrupt, or at least not as much clean as it must be to win the ‘institutional war of civilian supremacy,’ the popular support will always tilt in the favour of military and judicial establishment. We will see a repetition of the similar allegations of embezzlement levelled against the next leadership as well, quite easy when the leadership is hereditary. As long as politicians will keep misdirecting their energies towards mutual wrangling and institutional clash, they will keep performing rather poorly on the indicators of good governance. They will keep missing the circumstantial ‘free hits’ provided by the mistakes of military establishments, the year 2007 being one among some other occasions. The narrative of patriotism, whether we like it or not, is in the favour of non-democratic forces. Let’s admit the fact that any given survey shows that parliament and politicians receive far less approval from the public. Any continuity in institutional clash will result in further loss of public’s belief in democracy. The future of democracy, as far as ‘quality’ of governance is concerned, will always be exposed to dangers and instability in the presence of institutional clash. In almost all the countries where democracies succeeded in taking over the control of state institutions, civilians came forward with a rather cleaner record of both legitimacy and performance. Far more importantly, they performed on all the indicators of good governance, including institutional effectiveness. In Pakistan, one must, of course, ask why parliament moves at fast-track legislation process whenever higher stakes of political leadership are directly involved. If political leadership and the parliament wishes to win over the hearts of public at large, it will have to deliver by ensuring a settlement with the other institutions of the country. The rhetoric of civilian supremacy aside, any such contract must be reflective of the relative power of the stakeholders involved. Coming over the trust-deficit between the parliament, judiciary, and military requires a greater focus on the part of the parliament to deliver on issues of quality governance. Pakistan, therefore, needs a new political contract between its institutions. The broader outline of any such contract may follow three most significant principles. One, the defence establishment must be given privileged control over foreign and security policy vis-à-vis South Asia, China, Russia, and Washington. It means that the national narrative on outstanding international political and economic issues should accommodate the concerns of the military establishment. Any such assurance will assuage military’s desire of interference in political affairs; the choice, once left to the people of Pakistan, will not affect the nature of political outcome no matter which political party runs the government. Two, judiciary and parliament should overhaul the whole judicial structure including the role of police and law enforcement agencies. The process should be designed with a unidirectional goal of providing fast-track justice to the aggrieved. Three, parliament and democratic government, while accepting a lesser significant position in foreign and security policy, must concentrate on voice and accountability, political stability and absence of violence, government effectiveness, regulatory quality, rule of law, and control of corruption — the indicators of good governance. A recurrent institutional clash, therefore, can be avoided once institutions agree to operate within their own realms of affairs. For at least next three to four decades, this institutional contract can bring political stability and institutional cooperation. With its weaknesses exposed to the public at large, political leadership must show a farsighted approach of controlling what it has been left with, and work with other institutions It is correct that the proposed contract of governance is asking democratic forces to relinquish their 70-years old claim as the only legitimate entity ruling the country. This claim, however, requires pre-qualification of self-accountability. Unfortunately, in the wake of corruption, bureaucratic nepotism and denial of legal equality, political leadership has lost its chance of corroborating its legitimacy through performance. Instead, our leaders have relied upon the loopholes of the judicial system to win ‘technical’ justice. The concept of ‘technical’ justice as a proof of innocence, we need to realise, provided temporary and personal reliefs to various political stalwarts but tarnished the image of the political class as being the legitimate force controlling and governing the country. With its weaknesses exposed to the public at large, political leadership must show a farsighted approach of controlling what it has been left with, and be adjusting with other institutions to ensure a long-term continuity of democratisation in Pakistan. The writer is a former Fulbright Fellow and a Lecturer at South Texas College USA. He can be approached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, June 26th 2018.