The people are out on the streets and staging a Long March to demand the rule of law and independence of judiciary. What a tragedy and an irony that a country which on its birth was considered "twentieth century miracle" of a state and which was fought and won entirely through a democratic and constitutional struggle should now itself be struggling haplessly for democracy and constitutional supremacy and for a place among the "peaceful sovereign nations" of the world. Quaid-i-Azam did not live long to personally steer Pakistan to be what he thought and aspired will be "one of the greatest nations of the world." With his early demise, Pakistan was orphaned in its very infancy and lost the promise of a healthy youth with acute systemic deficiencies and normative perversities restricting its orderly natural growth. After the Quaid, it was left without any sense of direction and in a state of political bankruptcy and moral aridity. We have encountered unbroken series of challenges and experienced wars and territorial setbacks. We have lost half the country, and even today, we continue to live in an environment of fear and uncertainty about our future. Above all, the post- 9/11 scenario has placed Pakistan high on the global radar screen in a very negative image as the "hotbed" of religious extremism and terrorism, and a country afflicted with an incorrigible culture of violence and militancy." Pakistan is going through one of the most serious crises of its independent statehood. It is being weakened methodically through its ubiquitous engagement on multiple external as well as domestic fronts. Use of military power within a state and against its own people has never been an acceptable norm. Pakistan is the only Muslim country with an on-going military operation against its own people. In the aftermath of 9/11, Pakistan is once again a frontline state, and a pivotal partner of the United States in its War on Terror. As a battleground of this war, Pakistan could not escape the fall out of the crisis in the form of a heavy toll on its already volatile socio-economic environment as a result of protracted violence, instability, displacement, trade and production slowdown, export stagnation, investor hesitation, and concomitant law and order situation. A proxy war is being fought on our soil. We have brought the anti-Taliban war into Pakistan which puts our armed forces on the wrong side of the people. Our sovereignty is being violated with impunity. Our freedom of action in our own interest is being questioned and undermined. We are accepting the responsibility for crimes we have not committed. The US, in particular, sees Pakistan as the "ground zero" and a pivotal linchpin in its fight against terrorism. From being a major power in South Asia always equated with India, Pakistan today is bracketed with Afghanistan in terms of its outlook, role, needs and problems. This is an unenviable distinction which circumscribes our role both within and beyond our region. Our problems are further complicated by the complex regional configuration with Americans sitting in Afghanistan, the Indo-US nexus, India's strategic ascendancy in the region and its unprecedented influence in Afghanistan with serious nuisance potential against Pakistan. Our borders on all sides are no longer peaceful. Domestically, the "suicide bombings" have made Pakistan the worst killing ground of Muslims at the hands of their Muslim "brethren." There is nothing Islamic in this culture of senseless militancy and violence. Questions now also abound about the very future of Pakistan. Our federal structure is crumbling once again. There is a strong underlying resentment in Balochistan (and in other provinces too) against inequitable distribution of power and resources, exploitation of the province's natural wealth and unabashed use of military force. Quaid-i-Azam had a special place in his heart for Balochistan. He pledged to the people of Balochistan equal position and political status within the polity of Pakistan. Despite its abundance in the wealth of natural resources, Balochistan remains the most backward province of the country. A deep-rooted sense of deprivation and frustration has made its people highly suspicious of the policy-makers in Islamabad. Our leaders, however, have had different priorities. The current atmosphere is so murky that even genuine development projects initiated by the federal government are suspected and resisted only because there are un-addressed questions in terms of their actual utility and benefit to the people of Balochistan. It is time we redressed these grievances through constitutional and political means. Since 9/11, our involvement in the US-led War on Terror has only complicated things for us both at home and at regional and global levels, circumscribing our sovereignty and freedom of action. We are under unchecked military attacks almost every day with civilian and non-civilian casualties. The latest assault was in Mohmand Agency this week killing dozens of our security personnel. It seems we are no longer an independent state capable of defending our territorial integrity. Our borders no longer seem relevant. These attacks only show how much General Musharraf's eight-year rule has cost this country in terms of lost sovereignty and independence. Domestically, since March last year, we have been going through the worst crisis of our history that threatens the very future of democracy in Pakistan. General Musharraf has been engaged in a war of "one against all." He first tried to illegally dismiss the Chief Justice of Pakistan through a presidential reference against him which was overturned by the Supreme Court. He then went ahead with his highly controversial "re-election" on October 6 while still in uniform as army chief, from the outgoing assemblies that had elected him for his last term and were completing their own term. As if this was not enough, General Musharraf shocked the world through his November 3 extra-constitutional "emergency plus" in which he, as army chief, not only suspended the country's constitution, promulgating a "provisional constitutional order" (PCO) but also illegally removed those judges of the superior courts who refused to take fresh oath under his PCO. It was a "martial law" in the name of "emergency plus" and an assault in one stroke on the constitution, the judiciary, the media and the fundamental rights of the people. The nation gave a clear verdict in the elections held on February 18 against the Musharraf dictatorship and the unconstitutional steps taken by him on November 3. On March 9, PPP and PML-N, the two mainstream parties in the newly elected National Assembly and coalition partners in the new governmental structure, committed themselves in the Bhurban Declaration to restore the judges to the position existing on November 2 through a parliamentary resolution within 30 days after the formation of the federal government. The people are still awaiting this commitment to be honoured. More than three months have elapsed since the formation of the federal government, the Bhurban Declaration remains unimplemented. The judges are still being held hostage to an individual's power lust. General Musharraf's unconstitutional and illegal November 3 actions were a severe blow to the independence of judiciary. They are undermining the rule of law and also dangerously destabilising the country. They also have incurred international opprobrium and badly tarnished Pakistan's global image. Attempts are being made to fudge the whole issue. The people are not ready to accept any linkage between the restoration of the judges and constitutional amendments on the reform of the judiciary. They reject any constitutional package that seeks to indemnify the constitutional violations committed by General Musharraf in his capacity as army chief on November 3, 2007. For the first time in our history, the people have come out on the streets with a fresh impulse to change the course of their destiny. The "Long March" has been their democratic way of giving a "wake-up" call to their elected leadership. They expect them to honour their mandate or face their wrath in the next elections. They made an unforgettable example of the Queue League for future elections. To escape meeting the Queue League's fate, the present government only needs to issue an executive order to enable the deposed judges to return to their posts and resume their functions from which they are being illegally restrained. This would bring the much needed relief to the nation. An independent judiciary will be a strong pillar of functioning democracy in our country. We must now opt for constitutional supremacy, rule of law, and fundamental values of freedom and liberty without which the objectives of social justice, public welfare and economic development as well as political stability and national security cannot be achieved. Restore Judiciary and save the country now.