While it may not be difficult to pinpoint the forces at play behind the brutally unfurling drama with regard to the insinuated role that various institutions and individuals may have played back in the eighties, one thing can be said with relative certainty: whatever is unfolding is not conducive for the burgeoning prospect of democracy in the country. The effort to re-open sordid chapters from our not-so-elevating short history is pregnant with the unholy intentions of some vested interests in creating a raisen d'etaire to fold up the system and unleash another undemocratic experiment to plunge the country deeper into the quagmire. By painting a select coterie of politicians as 'bad', the effort also appears to be directed towards taking the attention away from the widely popular demand for initiating a treason case against the last of the military despots that ruled Pakistan for over nine years and the unearthing of large-scale financial irregularities that are plaguing state transactions in every conceivable field. Some more disturbing clues to the conspiracy have emerged since I wrote my last piece. It is no coincidence that a former IB official just appeared on the scene and, driven by his conscience, made the startling revelations implicating a string of political and military leaders as being part of a game plan to subvert the political process. The hitherto established credentials to the 1992 and 1995 campaigns in the province of Sindh are being questioned with the abject desire to cleanse the linen of one political party while the allegation of some leaders having received financial benefits to join the IJI appears spearheaded for enabling another political force in the country to reap the benefits. Incidentally, in the recent past, the beneficiary political forces have been under the microscope for their below-par performance since assuming the mantle of governance at the federal and provincial levels. Numerous stories about the squandering of national wealth through ill-conceived projects laced with heavy kick-backs have been doing the rounds. When the noose seemed to be tightening, a spate of pre-programmed appearances have been stage-managed to not only blunt the damage, but also launch a concerted counter-attack to malign a host of political leaders who have gained deserved moral ascendancy in the recent months through their unbending principled stand on national issues and espousing the cause of the poor people of the country. The episode also establishes, without any ambiguity, the counter-productive role that various agencies played in not only stage-managing the process of elections in the country, but also piecing together coalitions to fight perceived or real enemies to the interests of Pakistan. While it may be part of a past that should be allowed to remain buried, the critical question is whether the agencies have now managed to restrain their deep-rooted penchant to charter the course of national politics in a certain preferred direction? In an answer to this query is hidden the prospect of the nascent democracy taking roots in the country in the future. If that would not be so and the canvas of politics remains riddled with interventions from the agencies and their anointed lieutenants, it would cast a spell of doom on democracy emerging as a potential saviour of national interests and stalling the prospect of Pakistan being plunged, yet again, into conflicts exclusively for the purpose of winning a streak of legitimacy for military dictators. The bickering that the recent revelations have generated between the political parties was a tactic used by the vested interests to take the attention away from the drive to try General (retd) Musharraf for having breached the constitution of the country. It is a defining moment for Pakistan. Those entrusted with the task of unshackling it from a pre-structured past and guiding it along democratic lines to reap the benefits of progress and security should step forth in an expression of unambiguous commitment to this cause. All those political parties that genuinely believe in the ascendancy of the constitution should rise above personal considerations and stamp their approval on the need for the trial of the former despot to take place. However, if this initiative to bury the hatchet of the doctrine of necessity is defeated for self-serving reasons and for scoring points one way or the other, it would be not only be a travesty of justice, but would also keep open the prospect of continuing inroads by undemocratic elements to derail burgeoning national aspirations and keep influencing the course of history. It is also clear that General (retd) Musharraf's ouster was the result of a 'deal' brokered by external powers. The same powers are now trying to avert the prospect of their former benefactor being dragged to the court. Unwelcome as such interventions should always be, their current focus is patently against Pakistan's national interests and, therefore, should be resisted with a consensus voice. That requires unprecedented unity among the political forces of the country, particularly those that have stood up to dictatorial onslaughts in the past. It is an irony of sorts that some of these forces that still carry the scars of brutality on their backs are today arraigned in defence of the last of the string of dictators that ruled Pakistan. Their historical role should be to spearhead the drive to bring the former dictator to justice to bury, forever, the prospect of despotism in the future. Instead, they seem to be more inclined to honour their commitments made to external players in their bid to have the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) promulgated, paving their way back into the corridors of power in the country. Now that they occupy all coveted seats of authority, they seem more eager to preserve their citadels rather than stand with the forces of democracy that are trying to bury the hatchet of military rule. This is an anomaly of times that is not only difficult to comprehend, but even more difficult to live with. But, such is the burden of history that we are being forced to carry today. In spite of monumental odds against a possible reconciliatory course emerging from the current chaos, the effort should, nevertheless, remain focussed on evolving a minimum consensus among the political players. The principled stand that some political forces have taken is, indeed, praiseworthy as their efforts are primed to banishing the curse of dictatorship effectively. What remains to be seen is the level of wisdom on the part of other players in burying their personal demons and reaching across to embrace the cause of national interest. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com