My dear Muhammad Ali: It bears saying again: when you don't know whether to laugh or to cry, its best to laugh. But when laughter is caused by sheer helplessness, one laughs and cries at the same time. This is one such situation. When anti-democratic politicians masquerading as democrats haven't learned an iota of a lesson through their tribulations and travails and go for each other's throats to maximise their share of the spoils of power and create a situation yet again that forces the army to step in, what else can one do? The few real democrats are also laughing - but hysterically too - that our errant politicians are exposing themselves for the actual enemies of democracy that they really are and also exposing the irrelevance of this alien colonial system too. Where is peace, wherefore stability, promised if Musharraf went, they ask? Where is food, where the promised jobs? But what price the country? The politicians don't care - we know that - but we do. Like beasts that devour their young, our politicians struggle for democracy under military rule but when their efforts bear fruit they eat up child democracy before it can even crawl and give birth to military rule again. Then, before the 'dictator' has had time to understand 'fiscal deficit', they start agitating for elections and give birth to another child democracy only to devour it once more to give birth to yet another child dictatorship. And so this crazy dance of death goes on, like a scorpion with sunstroke, a suicidal snake eating its tail. There are no rights here, only wrongs. None of our politicians is without sin, but unlike the Biblical mob they go on casting stones. If Nawaz Sharif is all for the Supreme Court and its deposed chief justice today, only yesterday he had forced another chief justice out and physically attacked that same Supreme Court. If Asif Zardari is against the restoration of the deposed judges today, he was all for it yesterday. If today Sharif is against the imposition of governor's rule against his government in the Punjab, he had no compunction in imposing it against a People's Party government in Sindh yesterday. If he so hates Musharraf - the dictator - today, only yesterday he was weeping inconsolably at the grave of the dictator Zia, promising to complete his 'mission'. Why bother labouring the point? Everyone knows; none cares? Our capacity to fool ourselves is bottomless. So don't waste your time wondering about the brazen hypocrisy and the untruths of these politicians meant only to confuse and obfuscate issues, to divert attention from the truth. All politicians in the world are congenital hypocrites and liars because hypocrisy and lies are vital tools of their trade, which bears striking resemblance to the world's oldest profession. I say this with profound apologies to the practitioners of the latter. How would you expect a politician to admit that he's done something wrong when even normal human beings find it difficult to do so? It's not easy to see the monster in the mirror. Sharif is almost certainly right, though, when he says that Zardari won't have the chief justice back because he would likely strike down the National Reconciliation Ordinance which withdrew all the cases against him. That would send him packing; possibly back to jail. The 'injustice' here is that injustice has not been even-handed. If Zardari can be let off the hook, why can't Sharif and everyone else, even if they have been convicted? There has to be justice in injustice too, if you get my drift? So don't be surprised that the merits of the case against Nawaz and his kid brother are not being discussed. How can they? Instead, they resort to making all sorts of wild allegations too late, like forget that the same court's judgement on A Q Khan was welcomed by these same politicians. Was he temporarily released on Zardari's orders too? Or when in 1993 it restored Sharif's sacked government, even though his now lawyer-leader friend accused 'their lordships' then of having got dazzled by the chamak of Sharif's gold. (Is it the 'glitter' of the same gold that is financing the lawyers' movement? So says the bazaar). Sharif denies that he ever ordered Musharraf's pilot not to land his plane in Pakistan and go to India; forget that the black box recording of the conversation between the pilot and Air Traffic Control is available. Forget too that they closed every single runway in Pakistan and switched off their landing lights. And forget that the 280 passengers and crew have a story to tell. They ask how a plane could be hijacked from the ground. Why not? The masterminds are always on the ground. In any case, the hijacking was a hysterical knee-jerk decision because the plane was delayed enough to threaten to spoil the party, which it did. God has his ways, despite the plans of mice and men. You can concoct anything that you want in this country and get away with it. Why, ministers and parliamentarians have concocted graduate degrees and doctorates yet their posteriors have remained stuck to their august seats. If you want to know where all this will lead, all I can tell you with a reasonable degree of certainty is that wherever it is, it won't be a nice place. Politics abhors absence of governance. It creates a vacuum that is automatically filled by the most organised, disciplined and powerful force, which has been the army so far. So is it in the animal kingdom; so has it been in 99.9 percent of human history, a couple of hundred years of electoral democracy in a minority of mostly western countries notwithstanding. But this time we have confusion with two differences. One: if Mr Sharif plays the Punjab card, it will become Punjab versus Sindh, which would be terrible, indeed disastrous. And if Mr Zardari loses power because of this, he might well play the Sindh card, which to his credit he didn't when Benazir was assassinated despite much rank and file pressure. Sadly - probably unwittingly, knowing him - Mr Sharif has played the Punjab card more or less, with his followers desecrating Benazir's memorial in Rawalpindi and burning her posters, a quite demented act. Two: another powerful and organised force has emerged, one clear about its objective, whether you agree with it or not, and with a tunnel vision about how to achieve it with no compunction about how much innocent blood is spilt along the way. They are what one has come to generically call Taliban. They have already conquered Malakand division along with Swat and imposed their own peculiar interpretation of Islamic law there, all as part of a deal with this government. Having tasted blood, literally, they will go for more, for their objective was hardly Malakand. It is: "Today Malakand; tomorrow Pakistan; the day after the world." If they deliver to the people and solve their everyday problems, people from adjoining areas will also ask for the Taliban provided they forget about beheadings, school closures and the subjugation of women. What people want is speedy justice, not delays in Anglo-Saxon clones called courts. No one cares about beards in areas where near everyone wears one. The country is aimless and adrift, waiting for the axe to fall. Let's see whose axe it is. Nothing signifies the failure of Nawaz and Zardari more than that Chaudhry Shujaat and his PML-Q, Musharraf's old party that people had all but written off after the elections, hold the trump card today. Shujaat is kingmaker. With no party having a majority in the Punjab Assembly, we have a problem. If Shujaat goes with the PPP, they are still 29 short, what with 34 of Q's MPAs having turned coat and gone to Sharif. While with only 11 seats short, Sharif could still form a government without Shujaat because of his 34 Q rebels. Shujaat wouldn't want to be left out in the cold, so it makes sense for him to go with Nawaz, apart from the fact that Q plus N are a natural reunification while Q plus PPP will be a short-term unnatural gunshot marriage of inconvenience. To prevent this, Zardari might dissolve the Punjab Assembly. That would be suicidal, for PML united would sweep the next Punjab elections totally. Without the Punjab no Islamabad government stands a chance. Can Zardari risk that? The only chance for the PPP and PML-N to work together again is to forge a new understanding between Nawaz and Gilani. Nawaz can brook Zardari no more. Zardari seems to have painted himself out of the picture and become the fly in the ointment. Like his late father-in-law, he may have finally outmanoeuvred himself. So far the pro-Sharif protests seem to be run by his party members, street urchins, professional looters and troublemakers. But if the bazaar and the people join in, its curtains for his opponents; Zardari should know that. A lot depends on the lawyers impending 'long march' gathering enough momentum this time round to attract a significant number of the masses to make a difference. So far it has been a movement of the well fed. We will soon know. Was it I who asked last week what's so great about March? There might be something to it after all. The writer is a senior political analyst E-mail: