There it was: the photograph of our newly elected prime minister beaming with delight in the company of President Musharraf, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, the Chief of the Army Staff and our new information minister on the front page of an English daily. The occasion was the dinner hosted by the prime minister for the COAS, the Corps Commanders and the Formation Commanders of the Pakistan army. The lavish dinner reportedly finished with a musical evening thus showing to all and sundry that Pakistan was free of hunger and poverty and that enlightened moderation was reigning supreme in the country Of course, one could not miss the headline above the same photograph about the threat of famine hitting millions in Pakistan because of skyrocketing food prices. The photograph and the news item were a study in contrast: the opulence and extravagance of the military-civil establishment on the one hand, and the hunger, deprivation and the grinding poverty of the masses on the other. The photograph was also a vivid reminder of the divide between Pakistan's ruling classes and its poor, and between the establishment in Islamabad and the rest of the country. It seems that the reign of hunger, lawlessness and corruption prevailing in the country has no effect on the mindset of our ruling classes, especially those in Islamabad. The lavish dinner was all the more painful as it was hosted by the leader of a party which has traditionally built its support in the masses on the popular slogans of roti, kapra aur makan. Does the prime minister think that by hosting these lavish dinner parties he is solving the serious problems of hunger and poverty of the downtrodden for which he has been elected? In any case, what was the celebration about? There was no military victory to rejoice over. All that has happened is that the dark night of a military dictatorship is over and the arduous task of making a success of the democratic process which has begun faces the nation. This is an occasion for soul searching and finding solutions of the difficult issues facing the country, not for wasting one's time and the nation's valuable resources on lavish dinner parties. The prime minister and his ministers would be well-advised to pay attention to the letter issued by Asif Ali Zardari, the co-chairman of the PPP, asking the ministers to adopt a simple and austere living style in line with the difficult economic circumstances through which the country is passing. In fact, right now austerity in government expenditure and a simple living style should be the mottos of our leaders and governments at federal, provincial and even district levels to set an example for others to follow. Lavish dinner parties by the ministers and senior officials for one another must be ruled out. So must also end foreign junkets undertaken by our ministers and senior officials at state expense (Musharraf wasted the colossal amount of Rs1.5 billion on foreign trips during the last five years alone). Their main task and duty lie at home and not in the rarefied atmosphere of Europe and the US. I received recently through e-mail a set of photographs showing the contrast in the opulent living style of President Musharraf and the austere life of Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmedinejad. These photographs, which appear to have been widely circulated through e-mail, are a stark reminder of the callousness which characterises the conduct of our leaders in response to the abject poverty from which the masses are suffering. While Musharraf might be beyond redemption, a word of caution is due to the members of the newly elected governments irrespective of the parties to which they may belong: the people are watching you and the manner in which you dispose of important issues relating to their welfare and the progress and prosperity of the country. If our leaders, who should act as the servants of the people rather than as masters, do not watch out and devote themselves wholeheartedly to the welfare of the people both in words and deeds, they are in for the shock of their lives. If the people could rise against tyranny, they can also deal with the civilian rulers. Even more worrisome than the prime minister's lavish dinner in honour of the army brass was his statement on the occasion that the Pakistan army unlike other armies of the world carried a unique and distinct responsibility: "It has to defend the ideological boundaries along with the geographical boundaries of this country." I don't know from which version of the Constitution of Pakistan the prime minister has picked up this charter of duties of the Pakistan army. Certainly not the 1973 constitution which clearly lays down that "The Armed Forces shall, under the directions of the Federal Government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war, and, subject to law, act in aid of civil power when called upon to do so." There is no mention of the defence of the ideological boundaries by the Pakistan army in the constitution which every member of the armed forces is duty-bound to uphold in accordance with his oath. Needless to add that successive military rulers of this country have violated their oath and the constitution with impunity to impose their dictatorial rule with disastrous consequences for the nation. They generally justified this brazen violation of the constitution by invoking some God-given responsibility of the Pakistan army to abrogate or suspend the constitution and establish military rule in the so-called national interest. In fact, the defence of the ideological boundaries of the country is the responsibility of the people of Pakistan and after them of their elected government. It certainly goes to the credit of the incumbent COAS that he has called upon the army officers to adhere strictly to their oath to uphold the Constitution of Pakistan. For the prime minister to sing the tune of the extra-constitutional responsibilities of the Pakistan army at this critical juncture when the country is undergoing the transition towards a democratic rule is most unfortunate. It has struck a discordant note in the current scenario marked by the overwhelming desire of the people of Pakistan for democratic rule in the country under the supremacy of the constitution and the law. Hopefully, the prime minister's remarks reflected the zeal of his speech-writer to curry favour with the top brass of the Pakistan army. If that indeed was the case, a clarification as to where the government stands on this important issue is called for. Finally, a word about the so-called "enlightened moderation" propagated by Musharraf. The way Musharraf and his government implemented this policy neither reflected enlightenment nor moderation. In retrospect, it appears that the policy was merely a cover to hide the face of a military dictatorship. There was no semblance of moderation in the way the military regime treated political opponents, the lawyers, the journalists or the honourable judges of the superior judiciary. Enlightenment was understood by General Musharraf and his cronies as the slavish adoption of Western culture. Pakistan and the rest of the Islamic world do not need enlightenment of the Musharraf variety. What they need is enlightenment in the form of the re-awakening of the spirit of enquiry and quest for knowledge which had characterised the Islamic civilisation in its glorious days. The writer is a former ambassador E-mail: