This is exactly what has been happening to this country for the last two plus months. We know who is doing the laughing, but do you know who these conspirators are really laughing at? You and I, friends, and the very poor who are fighting literally to keep alive, so starved are they. Not just for food, but for employment, electricity and everything else. It's a very "bumpy ride" for sure. Callous, insensitive and totally self-serving. The response to the delay in bye-elections is not acceptable. No minister or advisor is that independent that he or she could dare to influence a crucial national decision in violation of a constitutional requirement without the express permission or even, as in this instance, consulting with the head of government. And certainly, in our bizarre political environment, the party head. That this is, apparently, the fact is not just incredible; it's downright impertinent and audacious. Citing intelligence reports as the reason behind initiating this action, is even more ridiculous. It is common knowledge that the captioned intelligence reports are the daily "must read" of the chief executive. If therefore they were perilous enough to set off alarm bells, the prime minister would automatically have convened a session of stakeholders to take the decision. Mian Shahbaz Sharif's revelation, in a television interview last night that the offending official had, in a personal encounter, denied responsibility and suggested that it was a EC decision is even more alarming. It is also in complete contradiction with the statement of the NWFP CM, who has no reason to misrepresent the truth. Subsequent discussions between an equally bewildered PM and Mr. Zardari, as reported, appear to confirm the advisor had in fact made the call advising the provincial government to forward a reference to the EC who, eyebrows are raised here, only too willingly obliged without any consultation with other stakeholders. The political scene is once again jolted. Aghast at the sheer insensitivity of this violation. Leaving the two gentlemen ultimately responsible the onerous task of salvaging what they can from the ruins in trying to galvanize a coalition already deemed fragile. The claim that some sinister behind-the-scene activity is the sponsor of this violation appears more than likely correct. Thank God in their collective wisdom it has been decided to recommend that the EC reverse its decision. In view of Mr. Zardari's recent written advice to his party's ministers to refrain from indulging in political indiscretions it is even more important that he takes stern action, as being demanded by his coalition partners, and removes the offender from office. And let no one deny that Mr. Zardari has both the courage and the political will to do so. For one, it will ensure that no minister, from any party, will ever dare succumb to the machinations of those hell-bent on destroying the democratic dispensation. Just the fact that the presidency in denying any involvement with this decision, termed the Election Commission "autonomous" has people tearing their hair out, so poor is its credibility. People do not just disbelieve, they are convinced that it is anything but. When the independence of the mighty Supreme Court was not countenanced, it is a fallacy to imagine that there are any takers in context with the EC. So intensely tragic is the situation in the country. Shahbaz Sharif's extremely balanced interview underlined the fact that it is imperative that the coalition must survive any crisis, regardless of the negative political fallout it may have to bear, thus ensure that intended subversion of the peoples' mandate does not succeed. And this is perfectly true. If in the long run it can thwart "Machiavellian" conspiracies and successfully show the conspirators the door, it will not only have survived it would have finally put this nation on the path to a democratic future. He raised two further significant points. The first, that the people had very high hopes in this coalition. In identifying the urgent problems facing the government, he was emphatic however that there will be "no headway without resolution of the judges' issue". He sounded a grave warning, "Mark my words. If this does not happen then the same thing will happen again.... And this time it will not just be the judges who will be arrested; it will be all of Parliament" The second, equally important, that the PML-N, in quest of the greater objective, had shown flexibility in accepting the continuance of the judges who had taken oath under the PCO on November 3. Asked if he thought that the balance of the apex court would be disturbed if the pro-Musharraf PCO judges exceeded the number of judges being restored, his response was that he believes there are good people among the PCO judges and that upon seeing the absolute unachievable being achieved, they too would be freed from any shackles. In articulating the great loss felt by the withdrawal of Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim from the committee finalizing the details for the restoration of judges by May 12, he reflected the feelings of the entire nation. Contrary to the interviewer's understanding that it was prompted by the federal law minister's attitude, Shahbaz, while paying glowing tributes to the law minister and the learned jurist, perceived that it was due to Fakhruddin's inherent discomfort with the continuance of the PCO judges. All attempts to convince him to continue had failed. On the issue of recurrence of victimization, in context with the Bank of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharif said that the action taken was in line with the findings of the SBP and that the Governor had met the provincial government and raised the subject. This appears to be in keeping with reports that NAB has taken up this enquiry based upon findings of the SBP. The country is faced with a huge ethnic divide. When the upper house, Senate, the repository of national equality, resounds with threats and counter threats of imposing bans on the inter-country export of natural endowments critical to national prosperity unless wheat is released, it is a matter of great shame. And it is time to really start worrying. In the wake of this with the media replete with reports the president is preparing for further confrontation if the judges are restored one is overcome with despondency. Till recently you could have coaxed me to alter, or perhaps adjust, my line of thought for the present, but now, after the latest shenanigans and the PML-Q fiasco, I am totally convinced there can be no stability until Musharraf lets go. The blatant, excruciating pressure being imposed by the Americans to sustain an anti-people strategy is beyond commenting upon. It is simply incomprehensible. While Musharraf, slowly and surely picks at each and every foundation, intent on demolishing the very existence, the Yanks applaud every step through overt and covert use of their talented tongues. Not to forget their "fried" brains. The country's nerves are frayed. Each new bombshell, political or literal, shakes the very core of peace and stability. Today, as if to justify the decision in delaying the bye-elections, bombs galore have once again shattered the peace. Bannu being the target. A crisis of confidence is being created; archetypical of the "style" witnessed since 9/11. It even scares me how spot on my "Snake Bite" article was a few weeks ago. E-mail: