The joint opposition seemingly fears that the culpability net is closing in on their respective leaders. For the PMLN, Nawaz Sharif will have to wait until the beginning of next week to discover his fate in the Al Aziza and Flagship corruption cases. While the PPP and Asif Ali Zardari need to sit tight for a couple of weeks before the final verdict in the fake bank account case. Both face possible arrest. Yet in a show of how commitments to democracy can at times be entirely selective — the PMLN and PPP have separately threatened to give the government a tough time if the worst were to happen. On the cards is the possibility of street agitation. Indeed, there are now talks of an imminent Nawaz-Zardari meeting towards this end. And while the right of public protest is one of democracy’s many important benchmarks — in this instance it would be quite misplaced. Particularly for two such seasoned political players. For if the elder Sharif and the PPP co-Chairman receive custodial sentences this will be the accountability court’s doing and not the government’s. This is an important reminder; especially at a time when political tensions are running high. Thus any call to party workers and supporters to take to the streets will be ill-advised. Not least because this will open the PMLN and PPP to charges of taking an unwelcome lead from the likes of Khadim Rizvi in terms of revolting against due process. When the right way to go about this is through judicial appeal. Nawaz and Zardari claim political victimisation at the hands of the ruling PTI. Even though both contend that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s sweep to power was ‘engineered’ by so-called hidden hands. All of which begs the question as to why neither has gone ahead and directly accused the military establishment of undue interference in the cases against them. Or at the very least lambasted the pursuit of civilian leaders while the country’s last military dictator sits uncomfortably abroad in ill health. The bottom line is that neither men wants to risk ruling out an eventual return to power. Ten years of uninterrupted democracy is not a considerable amount of time to consolidate democratic traditions or strengthen state institutions. For this to happen, political parties must work together for the good of the country. And this means allowing due process to take its course. Threatening any government of the day before this has been completed naturally compromises the tenets of a free and fair trial. By the same token, the PTI must answer charges of political favouritism by the courts. After all, the Khan premiership was sold as new slate. It is therefore hoped that all actors will play their part to wipe this clean. For the sake of Pakistan’s democratic long-term health. * Published in Daily Times, December 22nd 2018.