Can the Supreme Court judgement block the way of an ambitious COAS as the judges of the apex court and Prime Minister Gilani have hoped? Earlier in Asma Jilani case (1972) the Supreme Court had rejected the law of necessity and held that the army chief was bound by oath to defend the constitution and had no power to dismiss the fundamental law of the country. Going a step farther than the present Supreme Court, it had declared General Yahya Khan a usurper. The judgement however failed to stop the military takeover. Within five years of the verdict, Ziaul Haq launched a coup and overthrew Zulfikar Ali Bhutto. A supine Supreme Court subsequently validated the martial law. There are major differences this time though. The Hamoodur Rehman Court had not challenged the legality of Yahya Khan's tenure as long as he was in power and had declared the martial law unconstitutional only after the military dictator's removal. On the contrary, an eight member bench under CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry had defied General Pervez Musharraf when he was both the COAS and president, The court had declared the November 3 emergency unconstitutional and called on the entire Pakistan to disregard Musharraf's order. The defiance led to the CJ's illegal removal followed by an unusual but highly important event. The lawyers and the civil society stood up in defence of the judges and got them restored after a struggle spread over two years. Three factors played a crucial role this time: a number of independent and courageous judges led by the CJ, a sustained countrywide movement for the restoration of the deposed judges by the legal community, civil society and media and the entry of the PML-N in the long march at a time when the lawyers movement was showing signs of weariness. The Supreme Court does not act in a vacuum. The judges of the Supreme Court who defied Musharraf, were conscious of the sea change in public opinion that had taken place by 2007. This was lacking in 1999 when Musharraf staged the military coup. The failure on the part of the PPP and PML-N to deliver on their election promises during their respective double tenures had alienated the common man. The unending infighting between these parties had made the disgusted common man exclaim 'plague on both houses'. When Musharraf took over, a number of political parties hailed the military takeover while the man in the street remained unconcerned. The Supreme Court was conscious of the situation. Even the two judges who later challenged Musharraf joined their Supreme Court colleagues in taking oath under the PCO and justified the military takeover. By 2007 a sea change had taken place. Musharraf had become highly unpopular and had estranged large chunks of population all over the country. Political parties had tried to kick off an agitation but had miserably failed as the leaders of the PPP and PML-N who alone could draw crowds were cooling their heels abroad. The public meanwhile was itching for credible leadership which was provided by the legal community. The defiance by the independent judges had acted like a spark that puts the entire prairie on fire. When the lawyers initiated the movement, the civil society made its first major debut in national politics. Electronic media, enjoying its newly got freedom discovered that it could ignore the movement only at great cost to itself. Sixteen judges of the Supreme Court cannot take on nine corps of the army. A strong public sentiment in favour of democracy is needed to enable them to defy the military rule. The sentiment in favour of democracy tends to weaken when governments coming to power through votes turn their back on the people's problems, indulge in bad governance, defy rule of law and initiate no-holds-barred struggles. Despite professions of having learnt from their past failures, politicians are back to their old games that had paved the way for Mushrraf's ascent to power. Mr Zardari has forgotten the promises of roti, kapra and makan and important PPP leaders want the CoD to be revised. The tensions between the PPP and PML-N can any time go out of control bringing the two parties to blows. Poverty in the meanwhile is on the increase as is unemployment and there is an unending rise in the prices of essential commodities. The common man continues to be tortured by power shortages, inflated utility bills and lack of security. Unless the ruling parties, both at the centre and provinces, jointly act to address the common man's sufferings, a day might come when he is no more willing to fight for the system. If this happens, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain might not be off the mark when he observed that two trucks laden with troops and a jeep of army officers are enough to upset the applecart despite the Supreme Court's judgement.