There is much controversy raging regarding the advisability of holding the long march with the intention of bringing about a change of policy in the ruling hierarchy. Much is being said on the subject wherein the moral and political aspects of the move are being extensively debated and contrasting opinions forwarded on either side. The conflict has even touched a raw nerve among the leaderships of some political parties who are said to be courting second thoughts about the nature and extent of support that they should extend to the long march and the consequent sit-in. The ambivalence emanates from the assumption that such a move may result in the derailment of the democratic dispensation that has been secured after a long and arduous struggle against the military dictatorship. In the process, what is being conveniently overlooked is the abject lack of morality and legality of the current political concoction that has come ruling adrift the waves of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) - an agreement enacted between those who were feigning to be fighting for the restoration of democracy in the country and those who were its usurpers as they had come to power as a consequence of dismantling a democratically elected government. Naturally, all subsequent steps of the political party responsible for the signing of this immoral and illegal contract with a dictator, that still owes its sustenance to the unconstitutional proclamation of November 3, have been aimed at sabotaging the advent of a free and independent judiciary in the country, which is perceived as a veritable threat to its unlawful ascendancy into the realm of power. In this endeavour, the PPP has enjoyed the support of those parties that have traditionally stood with dictatorships in the country, or who have been the by-products of military rules. The critical argument that is being forwarded against the prospect of the long march and the sit-in is that there is a Parliament in the country that is fully empowered to legislate in consonance with the directives of the ruling combine in the house. In the event the controversy regarding the judiciary is taken to the streets, the concept of the supremacy of the Parliament would stand compromised and the right to rule would be consigned to those who prefer the power of the fist to the judgement of the vote. On the face of it, this is a premise that is difficult to dispute. But, that would be so when we had a government that was functioning in accordance with the spirit and the letter of the constitution and other agreements that were concluded between political leaderships for the sake of strengthening the foundations of democracy in the country. In the event it were not so, as unfortunately is the case in the present circumstances, and the sole direction of the ruling hierarchy would appear to be headed towards perpetuating the illegality and unconstitutionality of the self-saving proclamation that paved the way for a group of people to ascend the throne, this argument would be rendered untenable. What we have is no democracy. It is a nauseating hangover of a dictator's ways of grabbing and consolidating power by eroding all institutions and competing centres of lawful authority. In a situation like this, what are the possible options before the electorate? Should it sit still and continue to suffer at the hands of a ruling clique that is solely motivated by the priority of its personal survival and, in the process, compromise the verdict secured for the ignominious exit of a dictator? Should it wait for the customary five years and risk jeopardising the fate of whatever remains of the institutions of the country? Should it remain a silent witness to rampant corruption and lack of governance, thus allowing the hidden hands another excuse for adventure? Should it allow the democratic aspirations of the people to be trampled over by the overbearing lust of a leadership that can hardly see beyond the benefits it is accruing from the incumbent arrangement that is becoming wobblier by the day? Should it become a party to burying the burgeoning aspirations of the people of the country under the mounting debris of personal aggrandisement of a few? Or, should it move hence to undo the shackles that have retarded its movement through years of dictatorship and sufferance at the hands of those who have traditionally prospered by begging succour from the despots and supping with them the nectar of illegal authority? In the former event, the prime benefit would be winning positions of profit but living a life of waste while in the latter event, the road would be strewn with obstacles that would be both difficult and risky to cross but at the end of which, light could be seen filtering through. A difficult choice to make, but a choice that has to be made now as, in the event it is not made, or it is allowed to go by the wayside, the consequences for the country and its people would be perpetual enslavement. A decision to join the lawyers' long march and the sit-in would not be a repudiation of the principles of democracy, or an invitation for adventurism. Instead, it would be a reiteration of the coming of age of the electorate and a move to reassert the will of the people to make out the right from the wrong and to ensure that a democratic course is followed along the way to securing the goals of the people's judgement of February, 2008 that had summarily ousted the dictator and his cahoots. It is now time to reject the new-converts to dictatorial parlance who have secured their positions by striking a mutually convenient deal with the one in uniform and his attendants that are visible even after the apparent disappearance of the general himself. These surviving symptoms of a despotic mindset have the unmistakable power of bringing irretrievable harm to the pillars of a democratic polity centred round the concept of a free and independent judiciary. This is the time. This is the time that comes once in the life of a nation and would not return another day. The stage is set. The forces are all arraigned. On the one side are the elements that represent usurpation and the rule by diktat. On the other side are aspirations that stand for the ascendancy of the constitution and the promulgation of the rule of law. There is no meeting point between the two, as there should not be A fight for democracy has no downside, and no effort should be made to construe one. Claims to moral ascendancy would fast disappear in case political expediency was to take precedence over principles. The long march would be humming for freedom, as the converse is a steep hurl into a bottomless pit strewn with venomous serpents signifying oblivion. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: