The court of law is insistent on holding Musharraf accountable for his actions against the constitution of the country. The court of public opinion, it appears, is not at all concerned with protecting the sanctity of some book called The Constitution of The Islamic Republic of Pakistan, especially by way of punishing a former military dictator. This divide between the two, the law and the people, highlights the country’s failure in developing a culture of legal and democratic principles over the years. To the common man on the street, the constitution is not a sacred document to be protected at all costs. It is merely a book of rules and regulations written by imperfect mortals. The collective psyche of the nation is such that it finds it difficult to attach sacredness or value to words that haven’t directly descended from the heavens.

The people do not believe that they have a serious stake in the supremacy of the constitution. They do not view the document as the guardian of their most basic rights and civil liberties. This is why they do not feel that actions against the constitution can necessarily qualify as actions against them. On the contrary, they have been told over and over again that the constitution stands in the way of their interests sometimes. In that case, a choice has to be made: whether to ‘protect the people’ or some pages of some book. And so, when along comes an aspiring dictator in khakis screaming “national interest” and throws the constitution away, the masses are not even slightly offended. It also explains why a campaign for establishing the rule of law fails to attract public support. To an extent, it actually invites resentment as the whole exercise is seen as a facade.

This trial should serve as a wake-up call for those who claim to be the champions of democracy. They are unfortunately considered the face of all that Musharraf revolted against. This comparison serves Musharraf, and not them as they pontificate. Those who violate the constitution as a matter of routine and alter it whenever they like for the sole fulfillment of their personal agendas, do so by conceding the moral high ground that is a prerequisite for taking others to task. Why are the people expected to lay down their lives for the rule of law and the constitution when it doesn’t serve them? This is the question they ask, and we need more than words to answer them.