The Prime Ministers an nouncement in the National Assembly last week that he was ready to dish out real estate plots to all the parliamentarians if the opposition agreed to his shameful scheme, exposed the mindset that lies at the root of bad governance in the country. It views political power as a tool for personal gain at state expense, rather than a responsibility to work for public welfare, and it seems as if those shouting from the rooftops about defending democracy are bent upon strengthening this patently undemocratic mindset. Surely, the Prime Minister will have to do better than this to strengthen Parliament and the democratic system. In what seems to be a never-ending refrain, the PPP leadership warns us of conspiracies against democracy which, in their stunted understanding of the term, essentially means their hold on power. Over and over, they talk about invisible hands, undemocratic forces, remnants of dictatorships, political actors and directors, and what not, all-out to destabilise their holier-than-democracy democratic government. They dont tell us anything concrete and keep us guessing. Regardless of whe-ther there actually is a conspiracy being hatched by the so-called establishment or not, the question is: What has the PPP-led dispensation done to save democracy? Is it enough to paint itself as the victim? It is not difficult to understand that democracy is not only the best revenge, but also the best bulwark against any anti-democracy move that might be afoot. But to give democracy the teeth to save itself from any real or imagined conspiracies, the champions of democracy must make it a reality, rather than just paying lip-service to the much-maligned concept. There is a lot that the Zardari-led PPP could have done to strengthen democracy, but the party leadership has consistently pushed in the opposite direction, faithfully following a pseudo-democratic culture of patronage, corruption and intrigue nurtured by dictators. This version of democracy is as aloof from the citizens, their concerns and their welfare as any dictatorship. It works to the advantage of a small minority and their family and friends, servants and serfs, loyalists and workers. It works on the assumption that the government bandwagon, no matter how rickety and anti-people, could be kept intact by strategically doling out state resources to various players in the system, including the opposition legislators. Plots of state land and government jobs, lucrative contracts in the public sector and perks at the taxpayers expense, politically motivated promotions and transfers in state institutions, watan cards and income support programmes, are all used to patronise people in the power loop. The assumption is that by providing this small minority with corrupt stakes in an essentially elitist power structure, the business of government could continue without a thought for public welfare. This version of democracy is the very anti-thesis of democracy. Rather than spending its time and energy on figuring out the calculus of patronage to a small minority required to keep it in power, a democratic government would focus on formulating the right policies that benefit the majority of people, taking inputs from their representatives. Patronage has its limits, and any government could please only a limited number of people through it, people who directly benefit from the largesse. The right policies, on the other hand, would benefit the majority, strengthening the support for the government, as well as the democratic system among the people. This would be the best way to convince people that democracy is their saviour and hence worth saving. Unfortunately, the PPP-government has done little to give people the confidence that it is working for their welfare. The conduct of the party is anything, but democratic. While it talks about strengthening Parliament, the institution has continued to be a rubberstamp for policies that are made and decisions that are taken elsewhere, behind closed doors at the presidency or in meetings with the IMF. The games of numbers being played in the corridors of power are dictated by concerns about who gets to rob what from the nation, rather than any understanding on how to work for the betterment of the people. Instead of trying to take the opposition along, the PPP has failed to create consensus even among its coalition partners. Rather than working within a system of checks and balances, the government has actively tried to subvert any semblance of accountability, wishing for it the same unlawful space that dictators crave for. The party would like the whims of its leadership to replace the rule of law. Even within the PPP, democracy seems to have become a swear word. The party leadership consists of nominees, rather than people elected by the party members. This top-down party structure can be called anything, but democratic. As if this undemocratic tradition was not enough, we are witnessing a belligerent lack of tolerance on part of a small coterie of presidential yes-men and yes-women for party leaders and workers daring to criticise or disagree with them. Members of its Central Executive Committee have been suspended or issued show-cause notices for speaking their minds. Recently, the house of senior party leader, Sherry Rehman, was surrounded by violent jiyala protesters for stepping out of line. This undemocratic behaviour on part of a party that claims to have sacrificed the most for democracy, does not win any soldiers for democracy, people who will keep any threat to it under check. It not only shrinks the support base for the PPP, but also discredits the democratic system that it claims to represent. The writer is a freelance columnist.