Pleasure not known before hand is half wasted; to anticipate it is to double it-Thomas Hardy President Asif Zardari was doubly pleased at his swearing-in ceremony. Five months after his party assumed power his own ascendancy to the coveted slot marked the completion of transition to democracy. Mr Zardari's record since the country's return to civilian rule has not been very distinguished. It was rather replete with broken promises and crafty politicking. But then he can claim credit for liberating the beleaguered nation from the shackles of the most repressive regime, which had not only compromised our sovereignty but also declared war on unarmed citizens. Musharraf was the worst thing to have happened to this country. The man who usurped power nine years ago by dismissing a democratically elected government and promised to restore to the nation its lost glory had put its survival in jeopardy. Finally, he had to bow out. It was the best revenge democracy could have taken on dictatorship. But it was achieved the hard way. Go back to May 12, 2008. When Mian Nawaz Sharif pulled out his ministers from the federal cabinet on the expiry of the second deadline set for the reinstatement of the deposed judges the internally squabbling coalition gave a new lease of life to Musharraf's moribund presidency. It turned out to be a throwback to the Ghulam Ishaq Khan era. Aiwan-i-Sadr became a centre of intrigues. Those who collaborated in the crime of perpetuating military rule and preventing the country's return to democracy were politically resurrected within months after having been routed in the general elections. Chronic mumbler Ch Shujaat Hussain with cousin Pervez Elahi in tow were seen bending over backwards in pledging their allegiance to those desperately trying to destabilise the system. Democracy was their pet aversion. There is no disputing the fact that independence of the judiciary remains fundamental to a democratic polity. And the one thing that may continue to haunt President Zardari is the disregard he has shown to his martyred wife's desire of bringing Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry back to his chamber. The way the deposed judges are being restored is a travesty of the constitution. But it was equally important to purge the presidency of a cantankerous dictator who would not have hesitated from dismantling the democratic process by invoking a draconian provision tagged on to the constitution. Mr Zardari's decision to contest for the presidency needs to be seen in this backdrop. It was not taken perfunctorily. If the PPP being the biggest coalition partner had its claim over the presidency, and justifiably so, then Mr Zardari was within his rights to aspire for the position. After what the party had experienced from Farooq Leghari's treachery it was no use picking up another pygmy for the slot. No matter how sceptics feel about him, Mr Zardari has yet to prove whether he would like to conduct himself as a civilian dictator like Mian Nawaz in his second term trying to emasculate the powers of the Parliament and other state institutions, or to function as a titular head of state shedding the powers his predecessor had illegally arrogated to himself. And his detractors should judge him on the basis of his performance in office rather than mere perception, though he needs to radically alter the public opinion about him by extricating himself from his tainted past. President Zardari's reputation can put him in an advantage; he can stun his critics by not doing what they believe he can't live without and doing what they would not expect him to do. All that he needs is a support from the political leadership to tackle the grave threats to our sovereignty. Turning our faces from crossborder missile strikes and NATO's ground offensives in our tribal areas is a luxury the democratic leadership cannot afford. Those irked by Mr Karzai's presence at the swearing-in ceremony failed to understand that Mr Zardari's initiative will help prevent his Afghan counterpart from badmouthing Pakistan. The need of the hour for the political leadership is to rise to the occasion and make efforts to devise a national policy for safeguarding the country's sovereignty against external aggression. Mian Nawaz will be seen doing a great disservice to both the nation and democracy if he doesn't shed his obduracy and prevent the kid brother from pitting Punjab against the centre. They may not be able to escape the blame for destabilising the system if they keep forcing the PPP to quit the provincial government. Things have to be put in the right perspective before accusing Governor Salman Taseer of going harsh on Mian Shahbaz. Mr Zardari and his party must be given a fair chance to govern the country instead of dragging them into a situation where they are left with no choice but to go for the final kill in the Punjab. E-mail: