My dear Ali: By the time you read this, your new president would have been elected, but I cannot comment on it because I wrote this the day before. Deadlines won't let one wait, even for Doomsday. But if things have gone according to form, Asif Zardari should be the President of Pakistan. Congratulations What is there to comment about though? It is the will of the people expressed in all its majesty under democracy in action. Congratulations to all those who were harping on about "free and fair elections" for the last nine years, that democracy would "remain incomplete" without the return of the leaders of the two "mainstream parties", whatever that means. I'm not being cynical. I'm being factual. Zardari is the democratically elected President of Pakistan under the convoluted British colonial system that we have willingly adopted. So one should now also accept this system, however reluctantly and without necessarily agreeing with it, because that is also what the people apparently want through their "representatives". I am a democrat and bow to the will of the majority. If I oppose President Zardari, it will be purely on issues, merit and performance and strictly within the confines of the constitution that we have and the sort of democratic practice that it engenders. I will never be one to ever beseech the army to "save the country". That's best left to the purveyors of democracy who do it better than anyone when there is 'dictatorship'. "Save the country" from what? From itself? Last week I told you about both the symbolic as well as the real powers of the president, but I forgot three. One is that he can dissolve the National Assembly and therefore dismiss the government. The second is that he appoints the chiefs of the army, navy and air force as well as the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, under which comes the Special Projects Division that is responsible for our nuclear assets and weapons. The flip side is that as the appointing authority he can obviously also dismiss all four of them according to rules and procedure. These three powers, combined with his other powers, plus the fact that he is elected, makes Zardari the most powerful president in our history after his father-in-law, who in his early days in power was not fettered by a constitution, operated under martial law as the world's first, and so far only, chief martial law administrator and after it was lifted under draconian emergency rule throughout his era. However, division of powers is vital in a country like Pakistan, but it must be a balanced division, so that no one wields so much power that he is unchecked and unbridled and becomes a dictator. We have seen that whenever a ruler has tried to concentrate all power in his office, like Mr Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif did, we get into serious trouble. That all power should reside in the office of the chief executive of the country should apply only if he is elected directly on the basis of one-person-one-vote with Pakistan as one constituency and not indirectly through any sort of electoral college, be it a special electoral college as in the USA or the lower house of Parliament as in Britain and Pakistan or the Parliament and all the Provincial Assemblies for when we elect presidents. That dilutes the will of the people, meaning it dilutes democracy. It's a devious device to actually divert and thwart the will of the people. What is the need for an electoral college anyway? Why in this day and age do the people need parliamentarians or any other gaggle to tell us what their will is? Why can't they tell us themselves? Why don't we trust the people to tell us directly who they want their leader country to be, not through a third party which supposedly knows the people's will? That is the height of pomposity. The excuse for electoral colleges is that otherwise the largest province, the Punjab, would capture power permanently. That's balderdash. For one, that's precisely what the Senate with equal number of seats from all the provinces is for, to balance the demographic imbalance. For another, since when has Punjab 'hijacked' the top job? I'm the last person to be parochial, but look at the last nine years. Our president was not a Punjabi. Our first post-2002 prime minister was Baloch, the stopgap for two months a Punjabi, and the third half-Bihari half-Kashmiri. Most of the army's vice chiefs of the period have been non-Punjabis. The deposed chief justice, though ethnically a Punjabi, is from Balochistan, a post to which he might not have been elevated had he not been domiciled in our smallest province, a distinct advantage over being from the largest province. Look at the four top jobs today. The president (probably) is a Sindhi. The prime minister is from southern Punjab, which makes him culturally pretty Sindhi, no bad thing. Both the chairman Senate and the speaker of the National Assembly are from Sindh. They all got there because of the Punjabi vote, as has every elected non-Punjabi prime minister before them. If you look at our electoral history, the Punjab has always voted nationally while the other provinces have always voted parochially and even ethnically. But isn't democracy all about the will of the majority? Then why thwart it? We tried with East Pakistan and lost it. Could the real reason for electoral colleges be that without them it would be impossible to make proxies for the real wielders of power? Could it be that it might lead to the election of a chief executive who challenges the status quo by challenging the hold of the feudal baron, tribal warlord and the fake 'divine' whose credibility lies in a grave? Imagine: if we had a direct election for our chief executive with a two-candidate race in the second ballot, as in France, Imran Khan, who for all his follies and foibles is still less bad than all those now on offer, would give a run for his money to any comer. Under the indirect system through a miniscule electoral college comprising the oppressors of the people, he doesn't stand a chance. Get it? Look son. You come from a democratic household. That is how your mother and I have brought our children up. Make up your own mind. Don't take everything I say as the gospel truth. I am only doing my parental duty of giving you, your sisters and all the young people of Pakistan advice based on whatever knowledge I have been able to gather through formal education, from some of my elders, especially my father, and my experience, which has been much more intense than my 59 years would normally warrant. It's just the firmament that I, and many of my generation, have lived in. Always question what you hear and read, not in that irritating adversarial way that children of your age often do, but in your mind. Beware the tyranny of the written word, especially in newspapers. I've told you many times: if you read something for an hour, think about it for 10 hours. Question it, analyse it, understand it, digest it; then come to your own conclusions or take the theory forward. As the poet said: our grasp should be beyond our reach, else what were the stars made for? Beware even more the tyranny of the spoken word, especially on television. Beware the word of the demagogue, the politician, the self-styled analyst in an intellectual wasteland, the obscurant who peddles his own particular interpretation of religion in a confused State. Beware him who wears patriotism on his sleeve while questioning the patriotism those who dissent. Patriotism is the last refuge of the scoundrel. Love for one's country is as natural as love for one's mother. Those who loudly proclaim their love for their mothers have got to have something wrong with them. Those who loudly proclaim their patriotism are implicitly questioning the patriotism of others. Those who wear religion on their sleeves are implicitly questioning the faith of others. This is the height of hypocrisy. Never forget: there is a world of a difference between Faith and religion, which is only a collection of customs and ritual that soon become dogma under a bureaucracy called a clergy in an institution called a church in the generic sense. Love for country and parent is assumed, because it is normal and natural. Faith in God the Supreme Being is quite different from dogma at the mercy of the often half-baked cleric. Ah, my son, I used a word that has long become the anchor of our society - hypocrisy - causing it to be underpinned in a plethora of contradictions. I told you about one national contradiction last week: when there is dictatorship we want democracy and when we have democracy we want dictatorship. Another is that every 'democrat' has tried to become a dictator and every 'dictator' has tried to become a democrat. It drives one up the wall. I once read a report that 70 percent of Pakistanis suffer from mental disorders, particularly schizophrenia. No wonder. And they pick up a doctors' report that we all know was meant for some other reason to show that Asif Zardari is demented? If Zardari is demented then we are all lunatics. The writer is a political analyst