The past politics of Pakistan Muslim League – Nawaz (PMLN) have been far from ethical or principled. We grew up with images of Mian Nawaz Sharif as the trusted man of a dictator who was later exposed to be working with “individuals from the ISI” to forge an election alliance of almost all political forces just to erase the Pakistan Peoples Party (Mehran Gate). Then, to name another, there was a Hudaibiya Paper Mills Corruption Scandal.

In the politics of the 1990s, PMLN was seen to be involved with the deep state for not only deposing PPP governments but also forging cases of corruption against its leaders (it was admitted by the now-Defence-Minister in the National Assembly in 2005). This is not to say of course, that the PPP was never involved in corruption.

It was much before the last PPP government that we found the PMLN using abusive language against Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto in public rallies. Memories remain fresh; of former President Zardari threatened with public lynching and hanging in the streets by the good CM Punjab. That determined the political language that is now being used against the PMLN.

Mr. Javed Hashmi, the (former?) President of PTI is holding a presser while I write these lines, and is telling the inside stories of Core Committee Meetings of PTI in which Mr. Khan told his members that ‘they’ (the deep state) assured him of fresh elections to be held within September. He also reported that Mr. Khan had called Mr. Nasirul Mulk ‘our own man,’ one who would be helpful in sorting out poll rigging and subsequent re-elections.

Now this is serious. Not only must the Supreme Court take serious note, but the ISPR too must clarify the Army’s position. This must not come as a ‘tweet.’ A press conference attended by credible journalists who have the spine to critically ask counter questions is a requirement here.

In the ‘script’ that began unfolding last May, is one Pakistani-origin, Canadian-national cleric. Enter Mr. Tahir ul Qadri. The Chaudhries of Gujrat, and we know who they are very close to, met with Mr. Qadri and conveyed important messages after which the latter announced his return to Pakistan and the start of a mass movement for ‘social justice.’ The rest, as they say, is history. The Model Town Tragedy comes much later. Whether it was part of the original script or was a usual jittery reaction by PMLN, we might know in a decade or two.

Apart from these usual scripting details, what has bothered sensitive minds is the complete erosion of any regard for the institutions of the state. Both Mr. Qadri and Mr. Khan endlessly repeat the narrative in their every-fifteen-minutes speeches in which they consistently disregard the elected parliament by calling it ‘fake’ and ‘illegitimate’, and the judiciary by calling it biased and the election machinery by calling it politically motivated. Both imply that every single person sitting in these institutions is a corrupt fellow with no credibility.

While engaging with young aggressive supporters of both sits-in, one was shocked to see the lack of political knowledge on which both leaders love to bank on. What exactly the ‘revolution’ was for, none of the Pakistan Awami Tehrik (PAT) participants interviewed could answer. One woman said it meant there would be no electricity bills; one said it meant living peacefully with one another; another said that revolution was all about the end of the price-hike, and yet another said it meant the end of corruption.

In the Azadi dharna by PTI, many youngsters would pounce on you on the mere mention of the Constitution or democracy. Parliament for them was a bunch of thugs, democracy was a concept not fit for Pakistan, the constitution was merely a book that should be put aside for the moment till the decimation of ‘all corrupt politicians.’ The striking thing about both the sit-ins was the general mood of the people while sitting on Constitution Avenue, before they were made to attack the parliament and PTV buildings. It was jubilant, celebratory and far from being angry about social injustice against which they claimed they had gathered.

Hearing a strong narrative against democracy, one couldn’t help but be deeply impressed with the tactics of the deep state on how it has worked hard to confuse the masses who now mix up the failures of political parties to address the issue of public importance, and the democratic system per se. The popularly accepted narrative now is: democracy is a failed system, there is no need to protect the Constitution. The solution is: let democracy go if it must and bring ‘competent’ people in, even if they are un-elected.

Never have I come across a people so adamant on violating their own rights.

In the past two weeks, the Parliament House became ‘merely a building’ and the Constitution became irrelevant. One of the supra analysts repeatedly said on different TV programs that we, the ‘pseudo-liberals’ (the term normally used to describe progressive people who do not agree with your point of view), were cherry-picking the constitutional provisions by ignoring Article 140 A and sticking to the parliamentary procedure for the removal of the Prime Minister. That the non-adherence to a few constitutional provisions can’t be made an argument for disregarding the Constitution or the democratic procedure in its entirety, does not even occur to them.

Mr. Aitzaz Ahsan aptly captured the whole fiasco during a text-message chat with me the other day, and I quote:

“Having led bigger, entirely peaceful and supremely successful long marches I fully endorse IK-TQ allegations re NS-SS, but cannot support a crane-supported mob with dandaas, gas masks, cutters, slings attacking Parl and PM House, keeping women and infants in front, with ‘leaders’ sheltered behind, with the declared intent of ‘wringing PM’s neck’ (could they be allowed near No.10?) and themselves declaring that the ‘yes or no’ would come from the GHQ.”

“TQ expressly attributed the script to that writer. NS also should NEVER have turned to the General. If this method succeeds today to force PM to resign it will set a precedent for other more dogmatic and more determined lashkars to hold the govt hostage to other demands. (Can you even imagine these demands: women, Shias, Christians?). It will be the reign and anarchy of 25,000.” Inqilab and Azadi’, he said, have a purity and are not projected by the images of Shujaat, Khar and Sh Rasheed! (What Lenins! What Maos! What Guevaras!).

Karma, poetic justice or what have you, the PMLN is being treated with its own medicine. PTI must remember how all of this has come around the PMLN. The stooge role played for the deep state, inciting people to violence, instigating police officials on mutiny etc. will not be forgiven by history. PMLN’s attack on the Supreme Court is part of history. So will be the attacks on Parliament and PTV buildings. Having done this is a big burden of history you’d be carrying for which you won’t be able to forgive yourself.

Finally, for the record, supporting democracy does not mean supporting the policies of incumbents. Criticizing Imran Khan’s narrative does not mean one stands with corruption. Opposing Tahir ul Qadri does not mean one is in support of anti-Shia ASWJ or their patrons. Let our binaries not be that black and white.

The writer is an Islamabad based freelance columnist.