Democrats, dictators & demagogues.

THE system is imploding, spectacularly - collapsing under the weight of the multiple distortions created by decades of political engineering, not to mention outright military takeovers.

The unravelling is ugly, and judging by the events that transpired on Thursday at the long march, it could get deadlier still. No one quite seems to know how it will all end. But this much is clear; if chaos and anarchy are to be reined in, new rules of engagement must be drawn up - not only of engagement between the security establishment and the political leadership, but also within the latter.

In other words, another charter of democracy is called for. Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto put their signatures to such an agreement in 2007 - an outcome of their realisation that a dog-eat-dog political rivalry only strengthened the hand of unelected forces and left civilian governments at their mercy.

The pattern is discernible almost throughout our history: undermine the people's mandate from behind the scenes by vilifying political leaders as 'corrupt' or 'anti-state'. Let alone Abdul Ghaffar Khan, Mujeebur Rahman and many Baloch politicians, even Fatima Jinnah, the sister of the country's founder did not escape the label of 'traitor'.

The last few years saw the establishment come out from the shadows to shore up its latest brainchild, a 'hybrid' experiment with the PTI government. That 'one page', even by the standards of a country that is no stranger to combative politics, spawned unprecedented toxicity in the political arena.

Mr Khan is correct when he accuses several civilian leaders of being nurtured by military...

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