WHEN the United Nations General Assembly declared September 15 as the International Day of Democracy, it maintained that its aim was to raise public awareness regarding the importance of democracy in people's lives. Member states, organizations and parliaments were to celebrate the day by using the means at their disposal to emphasize the importance of democracy, what it involves, the challenges it faces as well as the opportunities it offers. On the first Democracy Day on Monday, the only move in the direction has come from President Zardari and that too in the form of a short statement expressing the hope that the celebration of the Democracy Day would srengthen pro-democracy forces and discourage political adventurists. Unless the political leadership takes stocks of a number of negative developments that have taken place there is little hope of the expectations being fulfilled. The parliament plays a key role in a democratic system. While peforming its legislative functions, it also serves as a forum where issues of vital national importance are debated and policy guidelines hammered out for the guidance of the government. It is time for the ruling coalition to consider if it is allowing the parliament to fulfil its duties. Seven months after the elections the National Assembly has done little besides passing the budget. The legislative activity is on hold because the standing committees remain non-functional, leaving 23 bills in a state of limbo. The committees could not be made functional simply on accont of the failure on the part of the PPP and PML-N to settle their disputes. While the PML-N has finally bid farewell to the coalition the government seems to be in no hurry to elect the chairmen of standing committees. To be able to educate the geneal public about the true functioning of democracy, the political leaders have to act as role models. The top leaders of the two mainstream paries had told people that they had learnt from the blunders committed by them in the past and promised never to revert to pracrices which were not in consonance with democratic ideals. With the deparure of the PML-N from the coalition, partly due to the failure of the PPP to honour its promises and partly on account of the inflexible attitude of the PML-N, the 1988-99 era seems to be fast returnig. The PPP mministers in Punjab cabinet are not on speaking tetrms with the CM. There is a lot of wheeling dealing by both sides which could be a precusor to horse trading, use of govenment machinery against opponents and a recourse to no-holds-barred struggle which can destabilise the syatem. It is time the top leaders of the PPP and PML-N realise the threat to democracy being posed and take corrective measures. Unless they do, the present democratic spell might turn out to be short lived.