A largely controlled media would have us believe that the elections were about taking down corruption and urban middle class aspirations. Apparently this is why Imran Khan won. Did he really win in a fair and free contest? There is only one basic principle which is the foundation of any democracy. People must be allowed to exercise the right to choose their representatives in a free and fair manner. This means more than just polling arrangements. In Pakistan, the establishment has interfered in the free and fair functioning of the media and judiciary. In 2017, more than 270 journalists were put behind bar, many social media activists disappeared, TV channels were cut off from cable networks, government advertisements were used to tame papers such as Dawn, and their were numerous reports of intimidation of media managers and editors. A controlled media was used to promote the PTI Chief, who ranted day and night on the TV about corruption and looting. He should prove all those wild charges against his opponents after becoming prime minister. Instead, he has embraced Pervez Elahi, whom he called a dacoit when the latter was the chief minister of Punjab under Musharraf. It should be noted that the establishment has so far failed to secure a single conviction on corruption charges against either Zardari or Nawaz. This circus must stop. The real game (blackmail, manipulation, political engineering) must be exposed. PTI followers often engage in whataboutism and ask “where were you when this happened”. I have, over the years, consistently opposed bad governance by all, criticising both Nawaz and Zardari. So please spare me such questions. Right now, the question is whether the elections were free and fair. The answer is a resounding no. Elections are a process, not just a ballot exercise. Also read: The more things change… Unfortunately, Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar gave the impression that he is out on a mission to expose the “incompetence” of the Nawaz government. He visited hospitals and kitchens while doing little for missing persons. He got involved in the case of Rao Anwar, who is accused of hundreds of extra judicial killings. The killer cop is now a free man, out on bail. CJP Saqib Nisar even visited a constituency during his election campaign, and met Sheikh Rashid, one of Imran Khan’s allies. To be quite honest, I don’t care about Imran, Nawaz or Zardari. My only concern is that the process should be fair and only the people should have the right to choose their rulers. Otherwise, the whole government’s legitimacy ends up in tatters. The voters of the largest city of Pakistan, Karachi, roughly with the population of 20 million chose to ignore the General Election on July 25. Sixty percent of Karachi’s voters chose to stay at home on the Election Day in one of the lowest turnouts in recent history. The people of Karachi gave a vote of no confidence to the entire exercise. Grass does not grow on the gallows. Naya Pakistan can’t be built on the rubble of a muzzled media, one of the least credible justice systems in the world and a manipulated election This is a serious matter, and has been at the heart of all crises since 1947. One day, our chattering classes and WhatsApping youth will understand this. I hope it is not too late by then. I suggest they read history and learn. Most Pakistanis have been educated in a society and in an environment where questioning authority amounts to blasphemy, critical thinking is rare, intellect is a handicap, history is nothing more than carefully doctored narrative in which villains are presented as heroes and saviours. Amidst the ridiculous euphoria of change, it may be considered blasphemous but my belief is not much will change. Change comes through principles, ideals and their pursuit by people with competence, integrity and vision. I am sorry Pakistan disappoints on all these counts. We get euphoric every ten years or so only to find out ten years later we were wrong. We think some messiah will change everything with a magic wand. This is very naive. But as Bernard Shah said, we learn from history people never learn from history. Sovereignty is a myth without a strong economy and nuclear arms don’t ensure security or a strong economy. Pakistan’s number one issue is whether it would continue to function as a security state with a facade of a manipulated democracy or modernise to become a normal country which will respect basic freedoms and rights, educate the third largest illiterate population in the world, develop a credible justice system to attract foreign investment, integrate with the global economy and become a respectable member of the civilised world. Grass does not grow on the gallows. Naya Pakistan can’t be built on the rubble of a muzzled media, one of the least credible justice systems in the world and a manipulated election. Wake up Pakistan! The writer is an analyst and an independent consultant Published in Daily Times, August 2nd 2018.