WHAT was widely speculated has been confirmed by one of the protagonists himself.

Mustafa Kamal, once MQM mayor of Karachi and now furious critic of his former party, has admitted that the security establishment brokered the already-frayed alliance between his PSP and the MQM-P.

The episode is only one of several in recent days that suggest political engineering of the electoral landscape is once again being taken up in earnest.

Put bluntly, it amounts to a form of pre-poll rigging to manipulate and undermine the democratic process.

Unhappily, not only does it appear that anti-democratic elements in the state believe that meddling in the democratic process is necessary, but that sections of the political class, too, are welcoming this interference with enthusiasm.

Nearly a decade since the latest transition to democracy began, the democratic project is arguably being weakened in fundamental ways. The upshot for democracy in the country is surely bleak.

Perhaps the most dispiriting aspect of the latest round of political engineering unleashed in various parts of the country is how many elements from across the political spectrum are willing to participate in the undermining of democracy and how unapologetic figures such as Mr Kamal are about behind-the-scenes efforts to boost their electoral and political prospects.

It is possible that the silence of mainstream political parties is encouraging the audacious interventions in the democratic arena. The PML-N and PPP — the parties that led the last two elected governments in the country — appear unable to mount even a weak defence of the democratic order at the moment.

Some ministers from the PML-N have indirectly referenced the Karachi machinations while a few outspoken PPP leaders have bemoaned political interference; but the collective response amounts to a tacit acceptance of the political engineering under way.

And while fear may be preventing mainstream political leaders from speaking out against the artificial, new ultra right-wing groupings that are materialising, these politicians ought to know that silence will only embolden these sections to the detriment of all Pakistanis.

What is also striking about the latest round of political engineering in process in various parts of the country is that there is no attempt made to conceal the machinations and no denials coming forth.

Once upon a time, during the tenure of former army chief retired Gen Jehangir Karamat, there was at least an attempt to distance the security establishment from politics. And during several suspicious episodes over the past decade, at least denials of interference have been issued.

Certainly, with a general election on the horizon and the leadership of the largest political party in the country, the PML-N, embroiled in conflicts with the state and inside the party, there has been space created for anti-democratic interference.

But the perpetrators of that interference ought to realise that undemocratic politics has failed in the past and will fail in the future.

Published in Dawn, November 14th, 2017

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