The nation cannot be blamed for leaving Musharraf in the lurch. It never supported him; it was he who had thrust himself into the role of a dictator and then subjected it to prolonged repression. Pakistan needs his impeachment. The best gift he could have offered to this nation on its 61st Independence Day was to step down voluntarily. There shouldn't be any doubt in his mind that it is time for him to go. But he has certainly missed the opportunity to spare him the ignominy. Musharraf stands completely isolated. The four provincial assemblies have passed resolutions, with an overwhelming majority, asking him to resign or face impeachment. Those who remained the beneficiaries of his benevolence over the past five years are turning their back on him. There were no more than 25 PML-Q members, out of its original strength of 84, who voted against the resolution when it was moved in the Punjab Assembly last Thursday. It must have come as a shock to the embattled president to see the edifice of his political support, erected on the foundation of deceit and treachery, quickly collapse. But then he cannot blame the Chaudhrys of Gujrat for betrayal. They firmly stand behind him even when he has not only become unpopular but also the most despised man in the country. No doubt they benefited a lot during his eight years of military misrule but at the same time they were the victims of his Machiavellian disposition. For more than once he attempted to change the PML-Q leadership despite being aware of the fact that none else could hold the King's Party together after its rout in the February 18 elections. But neither Ch Shujaat nor cousin Pervaiz Elahi nursed any grouse against him. This is not to condone their wrongdoings. They cannot escape the blame for calmly watching the country being subjected to tyranny. Instead of distancing themselves from the dictator they helped him perpetrate his misrule. It is exactly what Mian Nawaz Sharif did in the 1980s. Launched and groomed into politics by General Zia, Mian Nawaz refused to resign as Punjab Chief Minister in protest against Muhammad Khan Junejo's unceremonious dismissal. When it came to demonstrate his loyalties he ditched his Party President and threw his weight behind his uniformed mentor. Come Zardari, and he is no saint. Nothing could be more ludicrous than his charging someone with embezzlement. Not many would be prepared to get carried away by his recent disclosure that he had asked General Musharraf to step down two months back because he was on record as having said on more than one occasion that he was willing to work with the 'elected president'. There would also be a few takers for his claim that "Musharraf stands alone today" just because of the PPP's political strategy. It was a clever attempt to snatch credit from the PML-N leadership which never was backing off its two major demands: Musharraf's ouster and reinstatement of the deposed judges. Mr Zardari who is used to looking first to self-interest might have realised that he could no longer hoodwink the world about his hesitation to live up to his commitments. It was obviously the fear of the NRO being scrapped that led to his going back on his promise of restoring the judiciary to its pre-Emergency status. It suited him to put this issue on the backburner and bring the coalition around on the impeachment proposal, knowing it was time to go for a kill when Musharraf's foreign backers have abandoned him. Mian Nawaz acquiesced and so did the other two coalition partners. They understood that Musharraf was the major stumbling block not only in the way of reinstatement of judges but also the revival of the rule of law. Everyone feels that time is up for Musharraf. The sooner he goes the better it would be for this beleaguered nation that wants to breathe freely. It wants to come out of the shadows of the most repressive rule that stands guilty of compromising our sovereignty for self-perpetuation. The two western provinces are still bleeding and the heeling touch lies only in the dictator's dismissal. Pinochet's fascism pales into insignificance when compared to what the people of his country had experienced at the hands of his military misrule. Innocent citizens were kidnapped on mere suspicious of having links with terrorist networks and handed over to Americans for interrogation in return for dollars, coming in loads. The Lal Masjid tragedy will keep haunting him for many days to come. Musharraf's dilemma is that despite his supine capitulation to the Bush Administration he lost its support because of his clandestine support to militants. The crimes he committed were too grave to let him bow out quietly. It's time to indict him. And there's a long-last lesson to learn for the Bonapartists to stop nurturing any notion of having the nation over a barrel as and when they so desire. E-mail: sarmad@nation.com.pk