PRESIDENT Musharraf, in an address to the National Defence University, has termed defence, economy and an effective leadership as prerequisites for a strong nation. Though there may be some other elements as well like an independent judiciary, which should have formed part of the speech, the President's assertion would be appreciated by the good, the bad and the ugly. His warning of a weak leadership is, most likely, an implicit reference to the present dispensation. However, by all accounts, the present set-up has the ability and the will to steer the country out of the mess it finds itself mired in right now. The responsibility for this mess lies in the near-decade-long arbitrary rule of General Musharraf. It would not be fair to cast aspersions, or doubts for that matter, on the public representatives now in power. It is not merely the confidence of the people they enjoy but also the required political acumen to run the affairs of the country. Many of those who were elected in the February 18 polls are experienced parliamentarians and political leaders of standing. It is a pity that in the past, especially from the period starting from 1988, all elected governments were toppled and not allowed to complete their terms and their programmes. By comparison, for almost half of Pakistan's existence, the military has ruled the country. Needless to say, every military takeover multiplied its woes. But history bears testimony to the fact that it is the politicians who have been pulling the chestnuts out of fire every time the nation was in trouble. For instance, it was the political leadership, which put the country back on track after the debacle in East Pakistan. Apart from other cases, the elected representatives of the people at present are endeavouring to save the country from destabilization, although admittedly they have not been able to set their house in order yet. Those taking to the streets to stage protests against the President have a point. A war with our fellow-citizens in the tribal areas, some high profile extra-judicial killings of notable leaders like Nawab Akbar Bugti, the crippling economy, rampant unemployment, the deteriorating law and order situation, the menace of suicide bombings, the judicial crisis and the scarcity of food items, particularly the countrywide wheat shortage, are just some of his rule's failings. Rather than casting doubts on the credentials of those who are at the helm right now, the President had better recall the performance of his regime.