The same day as the Supreme Court announced its detailed judgment in the Asghar Khan case, in which it explained in detail why officials, including military officers, were not bound to follow illegal orders; on Thursday President Asif Zardari was apparently telling civil servants something somewhat different. He told the participants of the 97th National Management Course on Thursday in Islamabad that officials were supposed to ensure implementation of government decisions. By not mentioning any legal limitations, the President was thus implying that it was not for officials to make legal judgments, and just to execute decisions. While the Supreme Court was firm in its judgment, in recommending action against the COAS and the DG ISI of the time, it was also firm in refuting any implication that it was against any institution, in particular the armed forces.The President should also note the Court’s concern with eliminating even the potential for any clash among institutions. Instead of making statements which might be seen as defying the Court, he stands better chances of success in the path of compliance, as was shown only on Wednesday when the government finally wrote to the Swiss authorities canceling its earlier withdrawal of the cases against the President, as the Court had originally told it in its judgment striking down the NRO. The President must not allow the good work done by the compliance in the NRO case to be undone by defiance in any other, particularly the Asghar Khan case, which is about payments made to ensure that the PPP was kept out of office. That the Supreme Court’s remarks, a President cannot play a political role, has persuaded President Zardari to give up his co-Chairmanship of the PPP, indicates that he wishes to be in compliance with its judgments. That he is to give up his party office should also be viewed in the light of the Lahore High Court decisions on the subject, and of the Supreme Court’s thinking, as shown in its opinion expressed about President Ghulam Ishaq Khan’s conduct in 1990. Such an attitude showing intent to cooperate, is highly commendable. However, it remains to be seen just how the military officials guilty of subversion of the constitution will be punished. The case should primarily lead to the punishment of those in whose hands political power is not meant to reside and who have used it despite that to change the direction of the people’s opinion.Obedience without respect to the legality of the order or the simplistic standard of simply complying with the government’s wishes - neither standard is the best one to adopt. What is beyond question, is that those who have been found to be in criminal disobedience of the law must be punished. The annals of history must remember crime and punishment, not the glossing over of clear violations in the interest of keeping the peace.