In the constitution, oaths have been prescribed for the following offices: president, prime minister, federal ministers, ministers of state, speaker of National Assembly, chairman of Senate, deputy speaker of National Assembly, deputy chairman of Senate, member of National Assembly, member of Senate, governors, chief ministers, provincial minister, speaker of Provincial Assembly, deputy speaker of Provincial Assembly, member of Provincial Assembly, auditor-general, chief justice of Pakistan, chief justice of High Court, judges of Supreme Court, judges of High Court, chief justice of Federal Shariat Court, judges of Federal Shariat Court, chief election commissioner and members of the armed forces. Except for the last four mentioned above, every office holder has to swear that he (or she) will preserve, protect, and defend the constitution while the members of the armed forces swear to uphold the constitution. This variation in oath is significant and provides food for thought for every person. The question is whether the holders of the above mentioned offices have ever cared to think over and honour their oaths. After refusing to take oath under Ziaul Haqs PCO, I applied to the Supreme Court for a license to practise at that courts bar. While I was loitering in the verandas of the Supreme Court in the course of pursuing my application, I was spotted by a judge of the Supreme Court who was quite friendly with me. He invited me into his chamber and very kindly asked me why I had not taken the oath: I explained to him that it was against my conscience to take the oath of allegiance to the martial law regime while I was already under an oath of allegiance to the constitution. His non-challant response was Samdani Sahib, oaths are a matter of routines. You should not have taken your oath that seriously. This judge later became the Chief Justice of Pakistan and retired as such. If the members of our judiciary did not take their oath seriously, how can we expect the members of our armed forces to be serious about their oath to uphold the constitution? For our judges, some foreign Doctrine of Necessity was more important than their own constitution which they had sworn to 'preserve, protect, and defend. What a shame The authors of the constitution did their best to bind all the important members of our polity to their commitment to the constitution; but in vain. Our disregard of the constitution is phenomenal. It has brought us to the brink of disaster. We do not care to read the constitution, much less to implement it. It was, and is, the duty of the judiciary as an institution of last resort, to keep us all within the limits of the constitution. But alas it failed miserably. Let us hope that, at least in future, it will do its duty and keep us from a total disaster before it is too late. The reason why our governments, whether civil or military, go astray more often that not, is that we fail to act as watchdogs and wait until the damage is irreparably done and problems have become too complicated to solve. May God help us learn our lessons in time. The writer is a retired judge of the Lahore High Court E-mail: