Addressing Pakistan Peoples Party leaders at Naudero on December 27, who had gathered there on the occasion of Benazir's first death anniversary, Mr Zardari is reported to have said: "I know the killers of Benazir Bhutto. I'll expose them at an appropriate time." But for some muted demands from a few party members who were perceived to be close to Benazir Bhutto calling on Mr Zardari to divulge the identity of the killers, the media and the public at large have generally been unable or unwilling to grasp the serious nature as well as possible repercussions that the disclosure may entail. While the statement certainly makes for strange, even cruel reading, its moral and legal connotations can be extremely diabolical. After all, Benazir was the twice-elected prime minister of the country and a leader of undisputed international standing and stature. She was eliminated in the most brutal manner and a pre-meditated mechanism was set in motion immediately to hide any telltale marks that may have provided a lead to the killers. That was over a year ago and, as one understands from Mr Zardari's statement, he has known the killers all along, but had not disclosed their identity so far pending an appropriate opportunity or occasion. That adds a familiar but debilitating dimension to the mystery surrounding the former prime minister's assassination as, in Pakistan, no enquiry ever held into past murders and tragedies has led to credible findings and initiation of remedial measures for the future. If an ordinary citizen of the Republic had made this statement, the due process of law would have unleashed itself and the concerned person would have been quizzed to share the identity of the killers. Not so in the case of Mr Zardari as he enjoys immunity from prosecution on account of his election to the office of the President of Pakistan. So, he can make a statement pregnant with multifarious intents and portents and still be a free man. Coming from a person who has reneged repeatedly on his verbal promises made in public glare and trashed his written commitments as not being 'Quranic verses', there is a lingering doubt about the veracity of whatever he says. But, in spite of that obvious lack of credibility, his current statement has to be viewed in its full political and legal context as it may influence the possible findings of any serious enquiry that may be initiated at some stage since the efforts so far have been shallow and counter-productive. Let's face it. We live in a country where any recourse to the constitution and the rule of law are anathema to the ruling elite. One is accustomed to governance (An embarrassing misnomer in the current circumstances) by cruel whims and fancies. In the same context, one is prone to hearing statements that are made in total and insensitive disregard to the needs of law or the aspirations of the people. As a matter of fact, these are the two hapless contours of our dispensation that are either totally absent by virtue of being insignificant and irrelevant, or they are trampled upon as a matter of disdainful routine by all and sundry, but more notably by the stalwarts in whose hands are vested the reins of (mis)ruling the country. We claim we are a democracy. Name me one democracy in the world where the entire state machinery is engaged full time to save the skin of a chief justice who has been caught misusing his office for having his daughter's marks illegally increased to facilitate her admission into a medical college Or a democracy where the functioning of a parliamentary sub-committee that is trying to look into the matter concerning the chief justice, is being persistently obstructed and sabotaged by the ruling political leadership, even the guardians of the legislature itself Or a democracy where all power is being increasingly vested in the hands of one person who carries a sullied reputation, stretching back to innumerable years Is this democracy, or the 'revenge of democracy' that we keep hearing about? But an absence of democracy neither makes it unimportant, nor irrelevant. Contrary is the reality. Under trying circumstances, democracy is needed that much more so that efforts to introduce the rule of law could continue to bring some order to a system that is coming apart at the seams at an alarming pace. There has to be a beginning somewhere and I strongly believe that light shines through brightest when it is gruesomely dark as are the attending circumstances in Pakistan. Mr Zardari owes a constitutional, moral and legal responsibility to whatever remains of the system here, and to the people of the country, to disclose the names and identities of the killers of Benazir Bhutto. Unearthing the circumstances behind the sinister murder of the former prime minister as well as the identities of the perpetrators of the heinous act is the responsibility not only of the supporters of People's Party, but of the entire nation. The people of Pakistan have an abiding interest in putting an end to an unremitting sequence of evil machinations that have dragged the country to the verge of ruination. The key to that salvation is in the custody of Mr Zardari by virtue of his knowledge regarding people who wreaked the havoc of blatant murder. No consideration, irrespective of its nature and magnitude, should deter him from his responsibility to share the entire information with the personnel of the appropriate agencies and the people of Pakistan so that a transparent and concerted effort could be initiated to nab the assassins and bring them to justice. If, however, Mr Zardari opts not to disclose the identity of the assassins, as he has ostensibly done for over a year already, he becomes culpable and would automatically attract accusations of complicity in the effort to shield the criminals, thus barring the process of law. His oath of office dictates a path that is contrary to his conduct so far while a continuation in this mould would cast serious aspersions regarding his burgeoning intentions. That would be a gross travesty of justice and another telling blow to the fledgling efforts to introduce constitutionality and the rule of law in the country. There are only two options before Mr Zardari. He could encourage the process of law to take its natural course by disclosing the names of the killers, thus belatedly laying claim on some peripheral legitimacy in spite of a murky performance so far, while a refusal to divulge the identities of the criminals would further strengthen the hitherto-held perception that Mr Zardari remains a ruler deeply entrenched in the unmistakable mould of a dictator. That may further perpetuate the dark spell on the future of the country. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com