Nine months in power have revealed the PPP government's greatest credit and its gravest flaw as one: reconciliation. What once cleansed political bitterness has drowned good governance, sovereignty, justice, and the 1973 constitution. What began as a fresh spring of water has become a putrid cesspool. Every passing day, the waste deepens and Pakistan sinks further. Asif Zardari had history on his side after the election. Bitter political rivalries were obsolete. Reconciliation was a political necessity, as PPP needed to transform its one-third plurality into a majority in Parliament. Necessity merged with niceness. Zardari formed a coalition with his erstwhile nemesis Nawaz Sharif; signed a formal pledge to restore judges; apologised to Balochis; carried a white flag to MQM; and offered to reconcile with every political force. The result was epochal. Pakistan witnessed its first-ever unanimous parliamentary vote of confidence for the prime minister. After Musharraf's resignation, Asif Zardari pushed the PML-N into opposition by refusing finally to restore judges. The presidential poll was the apotheosis of the post-Benazir PPP. The downhill plunge began immediately. Zardari's address to the nation after the Marriott bombing panicked a nation in shock. The shock repeated days later, when the new Pakistani president failed to mention Kashmir even once in his maiden speech at the United Nations. The PPP government continued the Musharraf-Quisling foreign policy with even greater cravenness. The United States launched its first overt ground attack on Pakistani soil three days before the presidential election. Drone and ground attacks by the US Central Intelligence Agency and US forces escalated murderously in January-October 2008. Sixteen of the 32 attacks were carried out in just two later months. American bombs killed a total of 355; of these, 301 were innocent Pakistani civilians, 36 were alleged operatives of Al-Qaeda and Taliban, and 18 were Pakistani troops. The PPP government did nothing but protest. Why? The Washington Post reported that "The United States and Pakistan reached tacit agreement in September [2008] on a don't-ask-don't-tell policy that allows unmanned Predator aircraft to attack suspected terrorist targets in rugged western Pakistan. US government refuses to publicly acknowledge the attacks while Pakistan's government continues to complain noisily about the politically sensitive strikes." The Post also quoted a senior Pakistani official contrasting Zardari with his predecessor. Musharraf "gave lip service but not effective support" to the Americans. "This government is delivering but not taking the credit." Meanwhile in an interview with the Wall Street Journal, the president spoke of "militant Islamic groups operating in Kashmir as 'terrorists'." On CBS News, the president pontificated that "The people who are using the strikes are confident that they're doing something. Otherwise they wouldn't be at it." On CNN, he lectured that "You will remember history correctly, even the Second World War was perpetrated by a stateless actor, murdering of the prince if you'll remember." In fact it was the First World War. In a TV dialogue with Hindustan Times, Zardari once again failed to mention Kashmir in his prepared remarks and then capitulated: "Pakistan will not be the first country to use nuclear weapons." The president has immortalised himself by saying, inter alia, "written agreements are not Quran and Hadith"; "India has never been a threat to Pakistan," and by defending incursion of Indian fighter jets into Pakistani airspace: "It was a technical mistake." The PPP-government's response to the Mumbai attacks was a burlesque. The president took a hoax call. The prime minister flip-flopped on the issue of sending the director general of the ISI to India. The government failed to articulate a coherent view. It clamoured for 'proof' from India but acted against Jamaat-ud-Dawa without any evidence whatsoever. Ineptitude at the UN was beyond belief. The UN Security Council declared Pakistani citizens terrorists, banned their organisations, and frozen their assets. What were Pakistani diplomats doing? Ambassador Hussain Haqqani was not even aware of the Security Council decision, fuelling speculation that under intense Indian and Western pressure, Pakistani leaders in Islamabad had agreed to collude with the UN decision. Incompetence and spinelessness reigned at home. The nation suffered in 2008 the most bloodstained year in its history. A traumatised populace clenches its teeth every morning to face the worst electricity and gas load-shedding in history, the worst food-inflation in history, the worst loss of economic confidence in history, the worst corruption and human development indicators in history, and the worst security situation in history, with all of FATA and large swathes of NWFP no longer under writ of the state. Terrorism, inflation, and energy crisis are difficult challenges. But there is no excuse to have the 17th amendment still disfiguring the constitution. There is no excuse to have General Musharraf's despotic orders, ordinances, and amendments of November 3, 2007 still extant. There is no excuse not to implement the Charter of Democracy. And nothing symbolises PPP's abandonment of its ideals more than the failure to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and to take up the case of missing persons. Pakistan's democracy under the PPP rule has improved cosmetically but declined substantively. The same government that prides itself on offering chair of Public Accounts Committee to the leader of the opposition has subverted the investigation into the Farah Dogar case by the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education. The National Assembly has debated many resolutions but not a single piece of legislation. Stature of the elected prime minister has deteriorated fatally. Reconciliation has become loss of nerve; a synonym for appeasing foreign powers and enemies of Pakistan; an excuse for inaction; and cannot hide that the PPP leadership is bereft of vision and ideas to reform a tottering country. Sovereignty belongs to those who can defend it. The PPP has failed most grievously to defend Pakistan's sovereignty. The people spoke on February 18, 2008 to end the long night of Musharraf's dictatorship. They glimpsed light briefly, and now there is night again. Pakistanis voted in hope that PPP after Benazir would be aflame with lava of democracy; but have found only the lukewarm glycerine of reconciliation. In stagecraft as well as statecraft, glycerine is good only for false tears. The writer is a PML(N) MNA E-mail: