My dear Muhammad Ali: Once again our erratic people are clamouring for the army to "save the country." Once again they have reverted to type - expected and predicted - right on the clock, before the dust of elections has not even begun to settle, the excited echoes of the oath taking of our new 5 Watt luminaries still reverberating in our ears. If the army does move - and I for one sincerely hope that it doesn't - they will remain with type and start clamouring for elections and 'democracy' even faster. All sorts of prophesies of doom about March are filling the air. Most Pakistanis know little about Shakespeare (though many of the la-de-da types claim they do), but any one of us with even a little English knows the soothsayer's warning to Julius Caesar - "Beware the Ides of March." Even if they haven't read the play, they have definitely heard it in 'Carry On Cleo' and taken it to heart. What's so great about March anyway? Why not April? "Because March has been a momentous month in Pakistan's history," comes the reply. "Our republic day is in March. Ayub Khan resigned in March. Yahya Khan attacked East Pakistan in March. The judges were sacked in March." Okay, okay, but then every month has been momentous. April: Bhutto's hanging, Kargil; May: India and Pakistan coming out of the nuclear cupboard; June: the 'long march' of the lawyers sabotaged by their own leaders; July: Zia's coup; August: the birth of Pakistan, the Rann of Kutch, the resignation of Musharraf; September: the 1965 war; October: Ayub's coup, the earthquake, Musharraf's countercoup; November: Emergency Plus, previous elections; December: the 1970 elections; Benazir's assassination; January: the Tashkent Declaration. February must have something too, but I cannot recall offhand. That's the entire year for you, so how many 'Ides' should we beware? You can find momentous events in every month for every country. Perhaps we should all pray that February never ends, though I'm sure that many readers will find something in February and that will be the end of my theory. Look, I don't want the army to intervene for many reasons, the most important of which is that four stints of generals have demonstrated that like the politicians, they too have no solutions to our problems. In fact, they leave us with new ones. More importantly - and if I've said it once I've said it a thousand times - don't stop our learning process by getting rid of the assemblies, except constitutionally. We've never been allowed to complete our political education which is why we remain mired in the past, in thrall of pathetic politicians and cults for parties. The best way to learn is through experience, even when the going gets tough, very tough. Every country that has achieved long-term stability through an on-going political process, democratic or by any other name called, has at various stages, and especially during adolescence, gone through not just tough times, but hell and high water before getting there. Freedom comes at a heavy price. There is no easy route to a genuinely democratic system in which people don't only have the power to change governments but, most importantly, one that produces governments that continuously and significantly improve the human condition, starting from the poorest. Even those that have got there through revolution, like China, the only post-Second World War Third World country to have made it, had to go through unimaginable blood, sweat and tears before it got to where it has today. As people go through difficult times they are forced to think: Why is this system not working? Is this democracy? What is democracy? When they come to the conclusion that genuine democracy means having a system that continuously and significantly improves the human condition starting from the poorest strata of society, that day they will be on their way. That day they will start crafting a native democratic system instead of aping alien systems and trying to leapfrog to where others have got to after centuries of experience and evolution without going through the blood, sweat and tears, without inquisitions, without cleansing anarchy of the French type, without the rotten boroughs, the franchise limited to white male Christian landowners only. When the realisation dawns that in our society democracy means choosing people from the best among us will we have started getting to a democratic system of our own. That is why I want this Parliament to complete its full term, like the last one did. One should not get caught up in parties and personalities but in processes. Thus I am both amused and alarmed at the "why doesn't the army take over" blather and was angered to read last year that London's Institute of Strategic Studies thinks that the army could take over again or have no choice but to. Balderdash and poppycock you pseudo democrats of Temple Place or wherever this mischievous institute overflowing with Brown Sahibs is. There could be many reasons for military intervention. Look, there are certain 'holy cows' that any sensible government would do well to avoid messing with; else they are in danger of inviting a coup. Do not damage our relationship with China, especially our strategic relations. Do not compromise on the image of the military or reduce its effectiveness. Do not mess with the ISI and try to defang it. Our enemies are howling about it precisely because it is the most effective intelligence agency in the world. If it wasn't, they would leave it before it would pose no threat to them and their plans. Do not compromise on our nuclear assets. That includes letting the IAEA, the CIA or any other foreign agency access to Dr A Q Khan. Do not alter the cornerstone of our foreign policy, which is Kashmir. Avoid an economic meltdown that reduces Pakistan to a vassal of other states, banks and multilateral lending agencies. Do not let the economic downturn lead to instability and strife on the streets. Do not let the economic downturn or political meltdown reach the point where the federating units begin to lose their stake in the federation. Do not let the country be parcelled out into areas of influence of various Mafiosi and ethnic or sectarian groups or warlords of the religious or classical variety and extremism assume such proportions that the writ of the government does not run in large areas, and worse, is not seen to run. Do not let terrorism grow to a stage where it is thought that there is a realistic possibility of an extremist take over. Of course there are other power centres, powerful enough to overthrow governments, like the electronic media or the legal profession, but the army is unlikely to mount a coup for their sakes. It is said that a lion, being king of the jungle, can do whatever it pleases, either lay an egg or give birth to a cub. Problem is that if he does decide to lay an egg he doesn't know what to do with it. Not having the patience of going through the grind of hatching it or the knowhow either, he ends up making a terrible mess. That is exactly what has happened with every army stint: we have ended up with broken eggs and omelettes'. Once again the cry goes up for the king to retreat to his cave and let the animals of the jungle choose their new leaders. Once again they choose the same old jackals and hyenas. Once again the permanent vultures leave the lion's pride and shift to the new king, to continue scavenging morsels from the carrion of the state. Once again the cry goes up for now the new leader of the pride to take his 'rightful' place as the king of the jungle. Once again the still unlettered people welcome him as 'Saviour'. And so the syndrome goes on and inexorably on until the jungle is no more. The only one who can stop it is the lion, either by refusing to accept the 'crown' or to stop laying eggs if he does and start birthing cubs. Now that is another subject...what are cubs made of? The writer is a senior political analyst