A statement issued to the press and the public after a recent meeting of the Pakistan Ex-Servicemen Association (PESA) makes for interesting and provoking insight. The statement begins: "The ex-servicemen have always represented the best of traditions of the armed forces. They have a very proud record of sacrifices in the defence of the country. This image has been tarnished by the four military dictators and a small coterie of their henchmen. What they represented was supported by only a minuscule minority in the armed forces. General Ayub Khan set the pattern for ill-conceived and self-motivated plans and policies, which was followed by other myopic military successors. The legacy of dictatorial rule has impacted every facet of the society and destroyed the integrity of the institutions of the state. The widespread corruption, rigging of elections, unmerited promotions in the army and a culture of elitism widened splits in the country. The seeds of the separation of East Pakistan were sown in his period of misrule." The statement goes on to recount the disastrous consequences of sequential military rules: "General Yahya remained too drunk to apply his mind and faculties to the affairs of the state. He had a small group of incompetent, corrupt and inept people around him who were responsible for taking all decisions. Without foresight or vision, they just kept blundering their way through and took the country towards war that resulted in an ignoble defeat and the separation of East Pakistan." Recalling the dark days under General Zia, the statement adds: "The despicable period of Zia, characterised by brazen and crude use of state power to engage in conspiracy and murder, represented a cruel dimension of psychological war that he waged against his own people in their own country. New techniques of building a false illusion of his performance and belittling and vilifying political opponents were coined with half-baked sophistication. The culture of drugs and weapons was unleashed on the country during his misrule and every institution of the state was wrecked by placing sycophants and cronies in positions of power and authority. Not even the army was spared. He promoted to the rank of four-star general two officers who had never even commanded a Corps." Of the last dictator in the inglorious line, the statement is an incontrovertible indictment: "The case of General (retd) Musharraf is, however, different to all other dictators who are now in their graves. The list of his crimes is so long, heinous and of such far-reaching consequence that it must be dealt with a seriousness of purpose, urgency and due sense of responsibility. The principal forums for this have to be the people, the judiciary and the Parliament. What the ex-servicemen have been emphasising is that he should not be given a safe exit and that he must face all the charges and respond to all the allegations of gross misconduct against him. What is most painful and regrettable is that he is still free and continues to remind each of us that fruits of 'treason' include impunity from censure and prosecution. He is still debasing the image of the army and the country, which he had already and irremediably rendered murky in his nine years of misrule. This was so regrettably and so pathetically demonstrated during his recent visit to India to participate in the "India Today Conclave" where he only succeeded in bringing further shame to the name of Pakistan. Why did he undertake the trip is a beguiling question that he must be made to answer. Besides other things, what no one understands is why is he still staying in the Army House and enjoying an uncalled for and illegal hospitality of the institution that he was principally responsible for maligning throughout the world." After recounting his innumerable misdeeds and the reprehensible manner of his activities that brought disrepute to the institution of the army as well as the country, the PESA statement ends with an appeal: "PESA would like to know whether the rule of not participating in politics for two years after retirement also applies to General (retd) Musharraf If it does, as indeed it must, the Government of Pakistan (GoP) should move swiftly to enforce it. The GoP should have the Army House vacated immediately as it is already long overdue. Finally, if General (retd) Musharraf wants to participate in politics, he should do so at his own expense and not use the GoP facilities of accommodation, transport and security that are paid for by the poor people of Pakistan upon whom he inflicted untold misery and harm during his prolonged misrule. PESA and the brave people of Pakistan demand accountability of his actions and deeds regarding the manner of his usurpation of power on October 12, 1999, the proclamation of emergency on November 3, 2007 and the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional conduct throughout his misrule that brought incalculable damage to Pakistan." These are, indeed, pertinent observations not only with regard to the lack of role played by a dominant 'silent' majority of the army, but also about the incalculable damage that the battery of military dictators, with the support of a chosen few, have heaped upon the body politic of the country. Even after the exit of the last of the dictators, the country is still reeling under the ignoble legacy that he has left behind in shape of the despicable National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) that ensured that the traditions of dictatorship would continue even after the dictator had left. That is why we are still doomed with the continuation of the despot's policies as he enjoys the expensive hospitality of his parent organisation as well as that of the state at the cost of the very people whom he debased during his hold on power. With the advent of an independent judiciary, the problem has assumed an enhanced relevance in the context of setting a bold precedence to deter any future adventurism. This would happen only if the last of the dictators is forced to face a transparent trial and is made to answer for the incalculable damage that he inflicted upon the army and the state of Pakistan. It also poses a challenge to the COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani: is it General (retd) Musharraf's interest that would be paramount, or the interest of the state of Pakistan? Let the former dictator answer for his sins as on that may hinge the salvation of the country that he ravaged so disdainfully. Failure to do that would be an expression of complicity that would keep the doors open for future Charlatans to walk in. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com