Pakistan seems to be riding a rudderless vehicle with destination unknown and a driver who, amidst mounting confusion, has decided to jump off. Even a cursory glance over the nature and extent of the existential threats that have been created for the federation through gross misrule and a display of callous insensitivity to addressing the core issues would be enough to comprehend the evolving challenge that stares it in the face. In spite of that, there is no effort afoot to even take the initial steps on the road to piecing together a credible strategy to counter the crisis. On the contrary, the political leadership is only contributing to further compounding it hoping that it may be the best thing they could do to stay aloft the NROed ship. The permanently-absent-from-Pakistan President Zardari was recently in the UK having photo-sessions with a prime minister who may soon be on his way out. Before that, he stayed for over a week in the US mostly capitulating before the dictations of the host foreign secretary regarding critical policy components in the context of the recently unfolded AfPak strategy. The question does not relate as much to what Mr Zardari may be saying or doing. It relates more to why is he undertaking these trips in the first place when there is a functioning prime minister, supposedly backed by an elected Parliament, whose job it is to articulate state policies and interact with foreign leaders with an intention of advancing the national cause. Has the prime minister willingly forfeited his responsibilities to the president, or have they been forcibly taken away from him on account of his being accountable to the party co-chairperson-cum-president who continues to wield unchecked powers vested in him courtesy the 17th amendment that shows no signs of being addressed? Whatever the case may be, it would be cause of concern to those who want to see a system of governance evolve for the country that would create a democratic balance of powers between the offices of the president and the prime minister. Not only that a resolution to amend the constitution accordingly has so far not been tabled in the National Assembly, there are no apparent signs of this happening in the near future either. Consequently, the country continues to suffer under a dictatorial coinage hoisted by the former despot Musharraf who remains criminally and exclusively responsible for contriving that black piece of legislation, the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), to ease the current incumbency into power. In the classic dictatorial mould, the operation in Swat and other tribal areas was launched without taking the Parliament or the political leadership into confidence. It commenced at a time when Mr Zardari was in the US asking for more economic support in the so-called war against terror. That, by itself, compromises the rationale for launching the operation. While it may have pleased his American hosts no end, at home, it lacks the necessary approval on two counts. One, the ruling political leadership is devoid of legitimacy by virtue of the manner in which it assumed the mantle of power in the country. Second, it prefers to rule through the diktat of the presidential legislation rather than taking critical national policy issues before the Parliament and letting it stamp its approval on them. Be it the signing of the peace deal with the militants or its subsequent abrogation, or the decision to launch a massive operation to cleanse the restive areas in the tribal belt of the presence of insurgents, the Parliament remains in the proverbial dark surviving on the oft-repeated promises of in-camera briefs well after issues have been effectively botched. That's why, other than one-sided claims of having eliminated militants in the hundreds coming from the spokesperson of the army, which are vehemently contradicted by the opposing side without any loss of time, there is no credible information emanating either with regard to the nature of the operation, its objectives or the manner of its conduct and the possible time frame regarding when it is expected to end. There is another colossal tragedy unfurling in the wake of the launch of the military operation. According to the UN, close to a million people have so far been displaced from areas where the army is in combat with militants and it appears that no consideration was accorded to such a prospect during the course of planning the operation as, otherwise, large scale confusion and apathy would not be on abundant display in addressing the consequences of this massive human migration. But for some philanthropic individuals and private organisations having come forth, there appears to be no governmental mechanism in place to address the rapidly deteriorating situation. The entire effort seems confined to making appeals for help without putting in place an operational system to transmit it to the displaced families. This is yet another example graphically illustrative of the absence of governance in the country. There are moments in a nation's history when it rises as a formidable force to tackle the humanitarian challenges it faces and the responsibility for making that happen rests with its leaders. While the people have been generous by displaying abundant concern for the displaced people, the ruling concoction has again defaulted in transforming this wave into a movement as it goes around with appeals for dole-outs, having long lost all credibility for the domestic and international community to respond positively. One is forced to go back to the legitimacy question as, otherwise, such blatant insensitivity would not be on display. You cannot hide the sufferings of a people behind smiles and hugs. They need healing which would only come through the launching of a concerted, cohesive and all-encompassing effort aimed at understanding the nature of these wounds and then devising a curative plan and administering it in earnest. What would one do when there is no one to even concede that a monumental tragedy is occurring right in our midst Too much suffering has been unnecessarily caused simply because the rulers are unable and unwilling to understand the enormity of the problems that people are living with on a routine basis. Their lack of comprehension is compounded by a total absence of planning and a willingness to redress innumerable gnawing issues. There is only as much as people would be able to take. One cannot bury their problems beneath artificial broad smiles. Once pushed beyond the limits, the only weapon they have is the weapon of revolt. As the government's gross inability to address critical national issues takes a further plunge, it would be least geared to facing up to any such challenge whenever it unfolds. As one lives in dread of the prospect, it may not be long before one is beset with it The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com