The curtain on the final act of General Musharraf's "tragedy of errors" is about to be drawn. Whether or not he accepts it, he is now caught "in the line of his own fire." In March last year, blinded by his urge to hang on to power at every cost and by all means, he tried to oust the country's chief justice and then repeated politically-motivated "blunders and bloopers" one after the other. General Musharraf squandered several opportunities for an honourable exit. He could have heeded to the popular slogan "Go Musharraf Go" in the thick of the judicial crisis. The best opportunity however came on July 20, 2007 when the Supreme Court overturned his illegal "presidential reference" against the Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. He was in uniform at that time and overestimated his staying power against the hovering storm that he had himself precipitated through his illegal and unconstitutional actions. He now struggles for a "safe exit" but no one in the coalition leadership and the elected parliament is willing to guarantee him one. Rousseau was right indeed when he said, "The strongest is never strong enough to be always the master." General Musharraf now faces a grim "charge sheet" leading to his impeachment under Article 47 of the constitution for his alleged acts of "gross misconduct and constitutional violations," and perhaps a likely process of accountability on charges of "high treason" as stipulated under Article 6 of the constitution. The ruling coalition has its charges well-chronicled. General Musharraf managed to prolong his term as army chief for nine years beyond the normal tenure of three years through a controversial constitutional amendment with the help of religious parties whom he later used with his Western allies as a convenient scare crow. As army chief, he was the principal architect of the "unauthorised" Kargil operation which another senior army officer described as "the worst debacle in Pakistan's history." On his dismissal from the office of army chief for bringing ignominy to Pakistan, General Musharraf retaliated with the "use of force and unconstitutional means" to overthrow the elected prime minister in October 1999. He then got the Seventeenth Amendment approved by the parliament through commitments that he never honoured. Thereafter, he showed no legal or moral restraint in his lust for power. In March last year, he filed a presidential reference against the chief justice only to have the "judicial ground" cleared for his yet another re-election bid through unconstitutional means. It was a "judicial debacle" not different in its planning and execution from the one enacted in 1999 on Kargil heights. His ensuing actions were seen as an attempt to undermine the independence of the judiciary and have since then kept the country engulfed in a serious political crisis. After months of agitation and anxiety including spells of state hooliganism and vandalism seen in attacks on TV channels and a full-scale blood bath in Karachi on May 12, the crisis was finally "defused" with the Supreme Court giving its verdict on July 20 last year in which it rejected the "presidential reference" against the chief justice declaring all actions against him as illegal. By this verdict, the judiciary repaid some of the old debts that it owed to the nation since the 1950s. For General Musharraf, the writing on the wall should have been clear. With the Supreme Court verdict against him, he was left with no moral or legal authority to remain in power. But he did not grasp the people's mood. The crisis aggravated as he chose to continue with his ruthless "means" of staying in power no matter what happened to the country or its people. Then on September 10, he denied access to the leader of a major political party to the country by forcibly deporting him back to Saudi Arabia in violation of the constitution and in defiance of a verdict of 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. He circumvented the application of Articles 41 and 63 of the constitution to his otherwise ineligible candidature. 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. On December 15, he lifted the emergency but restored nothing. Musharraf took cosmetic measures only to further entrench his November 3 actions by giving them a life beyond the period of emergency through a flurry of unchallengeable presidential orders and decrees. The crisis did not end there. Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's tragic assassination in Rawalpindi on December 27 was a big blow to the country's political process that she had initiated for Pakistan's return to a constitutional rule through civilianisation of the country's body politic. There were serious questions on the failure of the State in preventing this gruesome murder. She had been voicing concerns and apprehensions about the lack of security arrangements to which she was entitled. She sent an email to CNN's Wolf Blitzer immediately after her narrow escape from the first attack on her life on October 18 in Karachi. She wrote to him that in the absence of inadequate security, she felt insecure, and if anything happened to her, she would hold Musharraf responsible. Her security-related apprehensions were not entirely unfounded. This year's February 18 election has been a big vote of no-confidence against Musharraf. The people had given him the final democratic call: Go Musharraf Go. He should have listened to them and availed himself of this final opportunity for an honourable exit. Those telling him that he is indispensable for Pakistan are no friends of his. They are sycophants or self-seekers and are merely protecting behind him their own future or interests. It was an overwhelming mandate to the two mainstream parties, the PPP and the PML-N to deliver on their commitment to put the country back on the path of democracy based on constitutional supremacy, institutional integrity, rule of law and good governance as envisioned by them in their Charter of Democracy. Indeed, this was a formidable challenge for the leadership of the two parties which is now convinced that Musharraf and Pakistan cannot co-exist any longer now. General Musharraf's earlier "extra-constitutional" measures including his October 12, 1999 coup were brought before the next parliament for "validation" and "indemnity" which he managed to receive in the newly elected National Assembly in 2002 by a two-third majority vote. This time, he is not so lucky. A similar bill, if brought before the newly elected parliament, would be doomed to fail. In the absence of a vote of confidence from the newly elected assemblies, his presidency continues to face questions of legitimacy and moral authority. Pakistan and its people do not deserve this illegality at the level of their head of state. This "war of one against all" must come to an end now. This conclusion has finally led the ruling coalition partners to invoke Article 47 of the constitution. Already the provincial assemblies which constitute the bulk of his "electoral college" have questioned the legitimacy of General Musharraf's re-election in uniform and asked him to seek a fresh vote of confidence from the new assemblies as he had committed himself to do so morally and ethically. The National Assembly is to follow the suit and also decide if Article 6 of the constitution will at last run its course. Musharraf can no longer shelter behind Machiavelli's infamous "doctrine of necessity" allowing the wilful ruler to stay in power through the use of force or deceit. His ouster would pave the way for restoration of the judges and independence of judiciary which are considered a sine qua non for the rule of law in the country. Musharraf must feel the people's mood. Their clarion call is loud and clear. They want him to go. No one can be indispensable in a country of 160 million people. There is no eternity in life, not even politically. General Musharraf could still save himself from ignominy in history by leaving before the time of reckoning. And his one step could perhaps change the course of our history. The writer is a former foreign secretary and senior political analyst