TODAY marks the 10th anniversary of an army coup that toppled a popularly elected leader and ushered in a dark phase of our history whose ill effects have continued to dog the nation till now though the military dictator left the scene over a year ago. The faade of Musharrafs avowed good intentions soon began to come down as the real motive of grabbing power became evident. To gain legitimacy for his rule, he manoeuvred break-up of political parties through inducement and coercion, for instance with the selective operation of the NAB apparatus, and formed PML (Q) that lent him full support. Mian Nawaz Sharif, the Prime Minister whom he deposed, was hounded out of the country and PPP Chairperson Benazir Bhutto, who was already abroad, chose a voluntary exile till deals brokered by foreign powers brought them back when Musharrafs own regime was virtually tottering. Asif Ali Zardari continued to bear the privation of prison where he was already serving a term. Musharrafs tenure began with a lot of promise as he outlined a seven-point strategy aimed at the countrys development, economic growth and internal harmony. The promise did not take long to get sour when he took to the pattern of his military predecessors who had staged coups in the past, with all the ruinous consequences for the people. Holding the Constitution in abeyance and disfiguring it on being restored with the aim of wielding power in an autocratic manner that ironically turned out to be his undoing, compromising national interests and a lot more. On the face of it, the economy was developing but it was hollow from within, with little to boast of infrastructure like big water reservoirs or power stations. Corruption flourished uncontrolled and even those at the top could not escape the blame. Power might delude the holder into feeling invincible enough to make any move, howsoever autocratic, but nature, unlike humans, has no favourites and would not let a wrong step go unpunished. Musharraf beckoned his downfall when he unconstitutionally relieved the Chief Justice of his duties. The people, already outraged by his tame obeisance before the US to advance its interests by joining hands in the war on terror, the spreading militancy and insecurity, and bartering citizens for dollars, rose up making the movement to restore the deposed judiciary a resounding success. Desperate to cling to power, he struck a despicable deal under which he issued the NRO that, though it failed to save him, has brought the nation to a most critical phase of its history. Musharraf cleverly manoeuvred his 'immunity from punishment with the help of foreign powers, most notably the US, which brokered the deal. The pity is that while the beneficiaries continue to flourish, those whom they represent in the name of democracy are suffering a miserable life.