Teflon is the material that coats non-stick frying pans because it has a very low coefficient of friction. The elections of 2018 have proven that civilian-led democracy in Pakistan cannot ‘stick’ unless it follows the path of least resistance. When piety and morality overpower reason and scepticism and criticism are labelled as conspiracy and treason, the grounds are ready for Faustian deals. There are no social contracts in Pakistan, only hopes of deliverance by messiahs and heroes. On the stage of managed governance, the pretty or pious populist leader helps disguise the continuation of military power where the real work is done by the unnamed patriot. There are too many contradictions between the civil and military to ever become a harmonious or even workable hybrid. They say a civilian head of a praetorian government is better than a military one, but not really and especially not if it’s going to be Musharraf-redux. There are legitimate concerns being sounded by those who have lived long enough to recall the rinse, repeat, recycle political engineering of the political laundromat run in Pindi. Even if the economy, foreign relations and jihadist deals continue as before or improve slightly, the method of how power is attained and shared will influence the compromises made by the dilettante PTI government. Ultimately, it will define their legacy. Already, cobbling an alliance is becoming a real politik challenge and the Musharrafian legacy of recruiting Pakistani ex-pats to assist PTI’s rescue operation is being revisited. Earlier military governments ruled when migration was just a first generational phenomenon. It was Musharraf’s praetorian government that inducted free-loading ex-pats based on the neo-colonial logic that Pakistan remains backward because of its dumb and corrupt natives compared to their clean, merit-based counterparts who have migrated to the West. The technocrat solution is favoured by several elite analysts and presumes that all Western overseas Pakistanis are experts at everything, compared to the local quacks — as if, patriotism is determined by religion and place of birth, or fixed to cultural memories that may have no relevance anymore. Such a logic may not be driven by a racial bias but is a cultural and class-based one. The models of Singapore, the UAE, Hong Kong defy the logic that experts must be ex-pats of the same race, nationality or linguistic background. Despite the fact that the migration of our labour is the most relevant feature of our economy, one cannot recall any overseas labour ‘expert’ from this class being inducted as advisor or minister by any government. While science and technology are certainly more advanced in other countries and the transfer of that knowledge may benefit Pakistan, this is hardly true about management or leadership. Hiring overseas Pakistanis as institutional managers, economic advisors and even Deans of universities in the private and shamefully, even public sector universities has become an excuse for evading the appointment of the elected, or professionals who have devoted lifelong-careers to local institutions. The technocrat solution is favoured by several elite analysts and presumes that all Western overseas Pakistanis are experts at everything, compared to the local quacks… Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf’s very justification of canvassing corrupt or compromised ‘electables’ or inducting independents is a contradictory compromise of its core stated philosophy. Not only does PTI consider these carpet baggers as the necessary and evil means to a good end but apparently considers these ideological free-floaters to be incapable of running government. Once elected, there is no justification for discarding them or outsourcing their work and duties to unelected managers and technocrats. This is what elite capture looks like and how exactly is the PTI proposing an alternative? Governance will never improve by such a cynical approach and the PTI will have reinforced the same class-biased formula as the elite before them who they criticise. To be free of ideology or in a condition of post-ality is admittedly liberating. Slipping and sliding in a Teflon democracy is easy. Any criticism of leaders or state institutions can be brushed off as anti-Pakistani and anti-Islam and any policy to accommodate jihadists can be spun as pragmatic pro-Pakistan, pro-Islam necessities. Induct a bigot one day and fire an idealist the next, castigate followers for misogyny one day but abuse opponents the next. Such inconsistencies are all par for a wasteland that is defined by one-liners from the scrap book of PTI potpourri philosophy containing random bits of Aristotle, Plato, Rumi, the Holy Book, Iqbal or some western statesman. For ‘failed’ countries like Pakistan, leadership on a strong-man mission rather than a civilian dominant vision draws admiration from western commentators and Pakistani ex-pats. By what democratic standard, ideal or representatives should we locals hold the PTI and its supporters accountable if they rationalise their elevation and formation of government? Ultimately, Teflon is toxic and should be used with caution. It is far more important to make democratic norms ‘stick’ rather than rely on military midwifery, and to anchor policy in concrete principle and through accountable representatives, rather than pin hopes on individual messiahs, abstract piety or fake patriots. The writer is a scholar and activist based in Karachi, she can be reached at email@example.com Published in Daily Times, August 8th 2018.