I am amazed at the demented orchestration championed by a few toadies and apologists of dictatorship that, in view of the prevailing situation at our borders, the ruling coalition should forget about the impeachment of General Musharraf and, instead, concentrate on 'cementing national unity and harmony'. Doomsday scenarios are being painted including the extreme of Pakistan becoming a failed state in the not so distant a future. Nothing would more poignantly describe this servile mindset than the words of a friend who wrote to me a few days ago from Nice: "Bondage is a state of mind, and so is enslavement. The shackled are restrained and the shackles circumscribing, even when removed." He goes on to say: "The price of freedom and liberty is enormous too, many not willing to repay the historical debt." Dictatorship, even at its most benevolent, has never been an instrument suitable to strengthen the unity and sovereignty of a country, empowering the institutions and raising the hopes and aspirations of the people. Entangled in the myth of invincibility of an individual, it has nurtured the demons of mistrust, disintegration and hopelessness. The symptoms were never more evident than through the worst breed of despotism unleashed on Pakistan that is now nearing its fag end. It systematically uprooted the traditional pillars of strength and solidarity of the country as well as the enshrining feelings of harmony and peaceful co-existence among its people. The dictatorship and its stooges and sycophants, shorn of all legal and ethical relevance, hit at the very basis of the creation of the country by pitting one community against the other. For meeting its grievous objectives, it stooped as low as target killing one of the most eminent national leaders hailing from Balochistan: Nawab Muhammad Akbar Khan Bugti. It sowed seeds of hatred and disunity. It abrogated the constitution twice over and resorted to using all detestable methods of violence, coercion and intimidation to subdue the burgeoning will of a nation struggling for winning its basic rights and freedoms. It violated the spirit of the people. The very thought of its joyous dance celebrating the brutal death of over 50 people in the streets of Karachi still sends cold shivers down the spine. It sacked the sitting judiciary and imprisoned the chief justice along with many colleagues in flagrant violation of not only the constitution, but also the basic human rights due to all citizens. It bombed out whole villages from existence and bartered its own people, in the scores, to win two-pence legitimacy from its patrons primarily to prolong and perpetuate its hold on an ill-gotten power. Instead of extending support to the political leadership that has finally shown the courage to pack off dictatorship and all its attending appendages and vestiges, this dim witted rhetoric is reflective of a state of bondage that has been bred on the petty crumbs thrown around by the architects of dictatorship to its self-serving support planks. More than that, it resonates with the pangs of death of a system that has been responsible for gravely targeting the foundations of peaceful co-existence among various ethnic groups, proud nationalities and diverse cultural faces of Pakistan. In spite of witnessing the crumbling of all his pillars of power, General Musharraf refuses to go. Confronted with the historic resolutions already passed by the provincial assemblies of Punjab, NWFP, Sindh and Balochistan demanding that he should either seek a vote of confidence from his electorate or resign, he remains arrogantly defiant. The impeachment proceedings are likely to be initiated in the parliament on Monday with the moving of a resolution outlining the grave violations of law and constitution that he has committed throughout his immoral and illegal tenure in office. He would have the right to defend himself before the vote is called. What is he expecting to do and what does he hope will happen to forestall the writing on the wall? It is nothing that the people of this country have not encountered before. It could either be that he uses the powers illegally vested in him under Article 58-2(b) of the constitution and dissolves the government and the sitting assemblies, or urge the army chief to step in to bail him out of the crisis. Although these are the hidden and not so hidden demons that the prophets of doom are trying to scare the people with, the swell of the ground reality does not favour either of the two options as has been proven by the overwhelming support the ruling coalition has demonstrated in the provincial assemblies. The situation in the joint session of the parliament would not be any different as large chunks of the former ruling clique, the King's Party, have already announced their intention to support the impeachment process. The critical question at this stage is not the obvious success of the impeachment of General Musharraf though I still believe we should have taken the route of reinstating the judiciary first. The issue gripping the mind and conscience of the entire nation is whether the impeachment would be sufficient punishment for a person who brought such incalculable harm to the country? Also, whether it would be enough deterrence for any future adverturism? On both counts, my answer would be an emphatic no. It has taken over 60 years for Pakistan to come to a point to finally assert its independence and sovereignty in a manner it should have done at the time of its inception. I strongly believe that, at this critical juncture, it can neither afford to bear the burden of dictatorship any further, nor its possible recurrence in the future. Seeing the back of a dictator would not be sufficient ground for that optimism. After all, our 60 years have either been sacrificed to direct military rules, or their shadows have lurked behind the so-called 'democratic' dispensations that they managed to concoct. It is time for their conclusive exit from the political realm and that cannot be achieved through the mere ouster of a dictator. He should be tried for having ruled in contravention of the constitution and legality. There is ample ground for this trial. There should be no dithering on that. One understands that efforts are afoot for ensuring a safe exit for General Musharraf. One also understands that powers outside and inside the country may be cooperating for this purpose, but that would be against the dominant national interest as has been so poignantly demonstrated through the exercise of the will of the people. General Musharraf should face the court and answer for multiple crimes committed by him and his battalion of drummers. I would like to end by again referring to my friend's mail who, borrowing the words of Pablo Neruda, said: "You can cut all the flowers, but you cannot keep the spring from coming." To that, I raise a fond toast The writer is a media and political consultant based in Islamabad. E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com