By a strange coincidence of history, Pakistan's destiny has ushered in a new president on September 6, 2008 when the nation is also celebrating the Defence Day. Pakistan faced a grave challenge on September 6 while Ayub Khan happened to be the president of the country. I was commanding 12 Punjab on the Burki Sector near Lahore, and well remember how the nation, in total support of the armed forces faced the challenge with courage and conviction. On September 6, 2008 Pakistan has elected Asif Ali Zardari as its new president with 479 electoral votes (followed by Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui with 153 and Mushahid Hussain with 43) in the midst of challenges no less grave than what it faced 43 years ago. The new president faces internal and external challenges of the magnitude, unprecedented in our tumultuous history. The nation has gone through three martial laws, three wars with India, dismemberment of the country and various experiments with so-called democratic, parliamentary and presidential forms of government. Each experiment further compounded the existing confusion. I need not go into the details of where the federation of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan stands at the national or international level. By a strange twist of fate, the nation has elevated Zardari to the highest office in the land. Zardari has not seized power through any backdoor. But he has been duly elected by the electoral college in an election conducted according to the constitution and contested by other presidential candidates. Out of the past 12 presidents only 2 presidents have gone through the proper constitutional procedure namely, Farooq Leghari and Rafiq Tarar. Neither of these two presidents can claim the level of political support and degree of national popularity as demonstrated by Zardari. His name has been proposed not only by the PPP but also the majority of the Parliament. As proof of the realisation of the new democratic spirit sweeping the nation, it would be in the fitness of things if those who have lost the presidential race, gracefully concede their defeat and congratulate the winning candidate to demonstrate to the world that September 6, 2008 has brought about the real dawn of genuine democracy that the nation has been dreaming about for the last 60 years. If the political leadership in the opposition does not demonstrate this spirit, observers at home and abroad fear that a serious rift may follow at the political level leading to a repetition of the decade of the 90s when the PPP and PML-N were constantly at war against each other. This has to be avoided at all costs in view of a much graver war against poverty and hunger, national security and safety of our borders and the survival of the federation. We have to look at not only the threat of terrorism which is endangering the security of the entire region but also the existing internal political strife in neighbouring India which claims to be the largest democracy of the world. According to a latest article by Kuldip Nayar, "PM Manmohan Singh's Congress-led coalition is facing serious threats to the extent that corruption has become rampant in the Lok Sabha because of the individual value of each member that can alter the balance of power." According to Nayar, "horse-trading is immoral but everything is fair in love and politics." The weak coalition governments, therefore, cannot last very long. The alternative, however, is a strong government comprising a political party enjoying majority support in the centre and provinces having minimum number of coalition partners because the more the number of coalition partners, the greater shall be the demands and pressures. That is why the PPP-PML(N) coalition could not work smoothly with any degree of harmony from the very beginning. To bring about a political harmony between the ruling party and the opposition is going to be President Zardari's first major task. Without national unity and consensus on issues it shall be difficult to face the challenge of War On Terror apart from the other socio-economic challenges facing Pakistan. Balancing of the powers between the president and the PM which has been a constant problem in our country is not likely to be a threat with the ruling party holding both the offices as in many other countries apart from Pakistan. In case of Pakistan's failure to resolve such issues in a democratic manner, I am afraid history is in a bad habit of repeating itself. The writer is the president of the Pakistan National Forum