Possibly, I am that one person who has written the most on the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) and its belittling impact on the legal and moral character of a society. I continued to do so through times when most thought that the benefits accrued to a select few under the controversial ordinance were 'past and closed transactions' - a routine that is being parroted yet again in the wake of the dictator's promulgation coming before the Supreme Court for hearing. Then and now, my contention has remained consistent: the contents of the document are against the cardinal principle of equality of all before law - a feature that is duly enshrined in the constitution of the country. While the much-derided document acquits a chosen few from serious allegations of graft, murder and numerous other crimes, a large number of ordinary citizens, on whom the NRO does not apply, continue to languish in jails for having been found guilty by the courts for lesser transgressions. This is a classic case of some being more equal than others - a precept that would not hold ground before law. Back a few years, there was much rhetoric of 'reconciliation' (with a dictator) to revive democracy in the country and the proponents of this concept went overboard in highlighting its benefits for the people of Pakistan. In the end, the only manifestation of that embrace with the sitting despot came in the shape of the promulgation of the NRO that guaranteed benefits to those who were engaged in the 'reconciliation' negotiations and their allies who were to lend them support in the times to come. This illegal, immoral and unconstitutional reprieve would ultimately pave the way for their ascendancy to the seats of power. Once there, they have remained continually engaged in foreclosing its gains by promoting the concept of it being a 'past and closed transaction'. It is an utterly ridiculous presumption on a number of counts, the foremost being that the dictator's promulgation has, to-date, never been evaluated either by the legislature, or a court of law. Unless its sustainability is duly sanctioned by either of the two pillars of the state, the document cannot be construed as having been promulgated in accordance with the relevant provisions of the constitution, thus rendering all benefits accrued under the ordinance as contentious, and definitely not 'past and closed transactions'. Unfortunately, the history of Pakistan is replete with instances of lending support to dictatorships by various entities, at personal and party levels, and then passing them off as having become necessary for the sake of one or the other interest of the county. The expedient legal coinage for such compromises came to be known as the 'doctrine of necessity'. We accepted the dictatorship of the self-anointed Field Marshal Ayub Khan, thus initiating the tradition of military take-overs in the country. The Martial Law of Yahya Khan led to the humiliating surrender at the Paltan Maidan in the former East Pakistan and loss of more than half of the country. The military take-over of General Ziaul Haq signalled the advent of the drug and militancy syndrome in the country that we have continued to suffer from. In fact, its germs have penetrated every layer of our society and, today, we are fighting a battle of our survival. General (retd) Musharraf came riding the barrel of his gun and, in his desperate quest for winning legitimacy, plunged Pakistan to the forefront of a war that has not even been defined so far. At the time of negotiating a deal with his twin Martial Law, the only motive of the PPP leadership was creating an avenue back into the annals of power in the country. In the process, it did not bother it one bit that, in lieu of negotiating such a deal, it would become instrumental in elongating the reign of dictatorship in the country. As a matter of fact, it secured its safe passage back to Pakistan on the understanding that despot Musharraf would be allowed to complete his tenure as 'president' of the country with guarantees provided by the US, Britain and other international players. The interest of the people of Pakistan was of least consequence to the leaders of the PPP. With the Supreme Court having taken a major step in casting off the albatross of the doctrine of necessity from coming into play automatically whenever a dictator would take over, it is time to address its attending manifestations also. NRO is one edict that fits perfectly into the mould and should be proceeded against forthwith. What its promoters are saying with regard to it being a 'past and closed transaction' is of least consequence as a statement from the beneficiaries of a certain act would continue to promote their own interest. The absence of morality, legality and constitutionality from the proclamation is patently evident to all except those who have directly benefited from it. A reversal of these benefits would also hurt only its original beneficiaries. For the rest of the people, it would be correcting an aberration to put the country back on the rails of governance by the rule of law. That, inter alia, requires that a firm adjudication is given in the matter. If the NRO is thrown out as an ordinance that is in conflict with the legal, constitutional and moral yardsticks as well as the concept of equal rights to all as enshrined in the constitution, then it must also be ensured that all benefits that may already have passed to a select coterie of beneficiaries are reversed and appropriate cases are re-instituted against those who were allowed a carte blanche reprieve. It is in the same context that due trial of General (retd) Musharraf has become a necessity and a lack of action in that direction would cast aspersions on the intentions of the sitting 'democratic' government. There is no longer any ambiguity in the matter after the judgement of the Supreme Court that declared the dictator's action of November 3, 2007 as ultra virus of the constitution. That should automatically lead the government to invoking clause 6 of the constitution that outlines the manner of proceeding against those who commit treason. The requirement of a unanimous resolution by the Parliament as outlined by the prime minister is not part of the constitution that I have read and comes across as a delaying if not a stalling tactic. The NRO remains critical to defining the course this country is to take in the future: whether it would be a course that duly conforms to the contours of law and morality, or whether it would pave the way for the emergence of another kind of doctrine of necessity. Any ambivalence left in this regard at this stage would only be fodder for the future Charlatans to hang on to their guns with potentially devastating consequences. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com