It is not essential for a dictatorship to be led or represented by an individual or a single political entity. It can be an institution, a collusion of institutions or groups sharing vested interest. Nonetheless, its basic features are common as every dictatorship strives to control the polity through a myriad of tools to the benefit of few. However, the most dangerous dictatorship is the one which operates indirectly behind a mask or uses a manufactured populist front.The first feature on which a dictatorship thrives is to create a security environment characterised by numerous, but mostly, imaginative threats to the state infused through an elaborate and systematic propaganda machine in the mind of citizens, rendering them unable to think beyond the etched horizon. The dictator and his junta craft an atmosphere of paranoia with the aim to present the state as an end and citizens as means. In such a hysterical environment the citizens are required to make sacrifices by renouncing their fundamental constitutional, political and economic rights for the sake of protecting the state from imaginative external and internal enemies to attain nonfigurative national aggrandisement and glory. Extreme intolerance of non-conformist voices and political opposition is the hallmark of a dictatorial regime. Any point of view or voice not settling with the regime’s political and economic framework, questioning its reality or exposing its wrongdoings is labelled as foreign agents and a threat to the integrity of the state.For this purpose, the regime not only creates imaginative enemies of the state but also forms new concepts, perceptions and coins new terminology within the realm of security threats. The aim is to counter the emerging challenges to its monopoly on state power, voices against its oppression and suppression and consequent accountability. Political witch hunt is another basic feature of the dictatorial regime. Through political witch hunt the regime tries to disrupt systematic political opposition and ultimately eliminates it either through the existing judicial system or specially created entities. Such a regime ultra vires capacitates the legal judicial system against political opposition to implicate it mostly either in financial corruption charges or treason cases, depending on the position of the opponents.In the case of institutional dictatorship which uses individuals and other entities to hold on to power, the legitimacy and credibility of the dominant institution are eroded. And in that case, the state is endangered and not merely the political systemBesides, the dictatorial regime also runs a de facto state or a state within a state which is not bound to the constitution or the de jure legal system. The rampant self granted empowerment leads the invisible state to indulge in extra constitutional, legal and judicial acts against the citizens. The dictatorial platitude extends beyond state institutions turned forcibly pliable and turns to other centres of influence. A narrative is woven to pervert reality so that the perceived lines engraved as ‘anti state’ elements are placed in the middle of academic and media debates. The reality between truth and false is not only deliberately blurred, it becomes almost indistinguishable. Concentration and centralisation of power and intrinsic abhorrence to devolution of power in the form of regional autonomy is another basic feature of the dictatorial regime. Local identities and cultures are another anathema to a dictatorship making relentless efforts to dilute and ultimately submerge them into an artificially tailored central identity in the name of national integration. The regime pursues its unnatural program of unity through uniformity by using all the available tools and power of the state at the cost of diversity.In case of possible frustration among the masses, but primarily to protect the actual junta, groups or any institution which run the show from behind the scene, it creates pseudo political entities, leadership, intellectuals, journalists and cobbles together unnatural political alliances to use either as pawns and sandbags as well as scapegoats when need arise. A dictatorial regime is also characterised by institutional misbalancing in favour of the security apparatus on which it relies foremost for its survival. The bulk of national resources is directed towards a black hole of national state security, preventing or limiting investment in the productive social development sectors thereby creating a cliental economy and economic dependency. The pervert system of resource investment and its distribution results in poverty and deprivation.Instead of outlining elaborate tangible political and economic program with reliable immeasurable objectives and goals, a dictatorial regime resorts to abstract grandeur, selling dreams through polemics, sloganeering and creating an aura of emotionalism. Instead of redeeming they merchandise the miseries. To divert the attention of the people from the deep rooted structural political and economic problems, they opt for cosmetic measures to use them as publicity stunts and preserve the status quo in the name of change and revolution. The system overtly relies on propaganda machine and for that purpose controls every means and its content. In the name of regulation they control and muzzle the media by choking alternative voices through brute state force, financial control and administrative measures. The propaganda machine is aimed to assassinate opponents’ characters and painted as villains to glorify the regime in the eyes of the people.No matter how much powerful or ruthless, a direct dictatorship, is destined to be overthrow by the people as compared to the one operating from behind the curtain which merely changes its front men or pawns in case of people’s frustrations. But the consequences of indirect dictatorship of either individuals or institutions are more dangerous than the former. In the case of the former, it is the person who loses credibility and legitimacy to be replaced in the end by a new political system. However, in the case of institutional dictatorship which uses individuals and other entities to hold on to power, the legitimacy and credibility of the dominant institution are eroded. And in that case, the state is endangered and not merely the political system.The writer is a freelance journalistPublished in Daily Times, December 14th 2018.