A confused mind is devoid of critical thinking, a sine qua non to see through the smokescreen to formulate options for informed decisions. Therefore, if you do not want anybody to think differently and clearly, it is best to compound confusion. And this is precisely what has been happening with this country for the last seven decades. The irony is, one cannot blame this on a lack of education or access to information, of that a plethora is available, but rather the kind spread to encourage cloistered thinking. By default, the more one imbibes what is being produced by the system in the name of education and information the more blinkered you become because the basic aim is to deny the vision to see clearly through the entire spectrum. The higher the degree, the higher the ignorance, particularly political until and unless an individual commits the blasphemy of breaking the vicious circle to wade through the forbidden waters of alternate discourse. The engineering of thoughts is more dangerous than political engineering, though it is a prerequisite to the former, as it stymies the ability of critical thinking to determine genuine causes and locate the responsibility of the overall decay. Instead of having the capability to navigate to the destination, such inserted blurred vision destines one to chase mirages. Corruption has remained a buzz word in this country since its inception but astonishingly the more it is talked about the more it grows, the more it is used as a weapon the more rampant it becomes. More surprisingly, the term corruption and its practice are affixed to politics and politicians only, a class that never remained the movers but played as pawns on the chessboard of the power game. Nonetheless, the role of those politicians who reached the power corridors is not above reproach. But the fundamental question is, why are only they stamped with this stigma when they venture into forbidden alleys of power or dare to say no to certain suicidal adventures? The first question that warrants the answer is whether the politicians so far, excluding the first decade of the founding leaders, ever remained in charge of the state system or not. The real problem was that the state edifice was standing, initially, on the personality cult of the founding leaders and a decade later on the institutional instead of on the underpinnings of the rule of law and the constitution. After the first coup d’état by General Ayub Khan, a filter had been installed to prevent genuine and honest politicians from entering the system. In contrast, they were labelled traitors and the stamp of corruption was quickly affixed to them for not providing cover to dictatorships. Thus, every martial law necessitated a new crop of cultivated pseudo politicians to provide the much needed legitimacy to the praetorian dispensation in lieu of the incentive offered in the form of corruption. Such contractual and transactional arrangement based on the incentive of corruption designed to provide civilian cover to the praetorian system reduced politicians to scapegoats so they could shoulder responsibility for ensuing disastrous consequences. The state was dismembered at the end of 12 long years of military rule in 1971, but responsibility was squarely laid on the shoulders of the civilian ZA Bhutto as the Hamid-ur-Rehman Commission report never saw the light of the day. By the time Bhutto realised that his populism was manufactured to be used to revive and fortify the security state paradigm to a dangerous level, it was too late. Ultimately, in the absence of corruption charges, he was sent to the gallows on trumped up murder charges. If it were the political institutions, politicians, and civilian dispensation that were primarily responsible for corruption, nepotism, and bad governance, the martial regimes should have fixed these issues once and for all Zia’s regime learnt a lesson or two from the previous dictators for he employed more political sophistication. He infested politics with financial corruption on a large scale and reduced the role of legislators to the level of local body government members. The regime allocated developmental funds apparently meant to provide basic amenities. Since then, the main concern of a member of parliament was to receive maximum developmental funds to use for appeasement of voters instead of legislative performance. Some commentators blamed the weak and corruptible politicians who had rendered the system weak to allow the military to fill the vacuum. I contest it on the ground that, first a genuine leader raised from the streets and supported by the people never made it to the power corridors because as I mentioned above, this country either ran on personality cults or institutions — not on the constitution. Whoever contested this pattern while in the system was removed unceremoniously like ZA Bhutto, Junejo and most recently, Nawaz Sharif to be replaced with new entrants. Politicians remain acceptable for as long as they are ready to work according to the ready-made policy. It is yet to be seen whether Imran will follow the Shaukat Aziz or the Nawaz Sharif route, if the spiritual and the martial powers prevail. Critics propound that self-centred politicians failed to deliver, which weakened democracy to provide opportunity and pretext to anti-democratic forces. But they forget or ignore the fact that it was not possible to deliver unless they controlled the entire state system and allocation of resources. For implementing a pro-people welfare agenda, they needed to challenge the existing state paradigm. Whenever any political leader, even previously implanted by the praetorian system tried to change, she or he ended up facing an unpalatable political fate. So far those leaders who challenged the paradigm and put up resistance to a controlled political environment fell from the crest. We should not forget that the praetorian system will not easily allow politicians to deliver because their strength lies in the sustained weakness injected into the body politic. If it were the political institutions, politicians and civilian dispensation that were primarily responsible for corruption, nepotism and bad governance, the martial regimes should have fixed these issues once and for all. Contrarily, every martial law and controlled democracy pushed them from bad to worse. A weak democracy in a controlled political atmosphere cannot take root under the shadow of the praetorians. Unless we develop the capacity to locate where the problem and responsibility lie, we will remain lost in this vicious circle. The writer is a political analyst hailing from Swat. Tweets @MirSwat Published in Daily Times, July 12th 2018.