Our prime minister is a well-meaning person. He generally keeps quiet and does not assert himself beyond his known systemic constraints. But as a veteran political leader, he cannot always confine himself to merely giving prime ministerial looks by changing designer suits every day. He may have built a large and lavish wardrobe but he cannot resist the irresistible occasional urge to act like a prime minister. He thus has been giving occasional surprises. Didn't he sound like a real prime minister when he first addressed the National Assembly after his election as the new prime minister? Gilani exuded confidence and authority of an elected prime minister when he roared: "I order the release of the detained judges of the higher judiciary." He received a thunderous applause and a standing ovation from the people not only in attendance at the National Assembly building but all over the country. Gilani surprised everyone again when he announced that his government was willing to talk with militant groups in the tribal areas on condition that they disarmed themselves. This offer was a significant policy turnaround from what had held sway in General Musharraf's Pakistan in recent years. Gilani did move a cosmetic resolution in the Parliament on October 22 last year which he claimed would serve as a policy guideline to the government in framing a national security strategy. But there has been no follow up. The prime minister is speaking again these days, and is also asserting his authority. He just sacked his national security advisor for bypassing him before making a statement on an important "national security" issue. Whatever the merits or demerits of this action, he did impress the nation with his decisiveness. Some people thought he was on the Junejo path. Why not? By resisting the arbitrariness of a wilful dictator and upholding the will of the people, Junejo did make place in history. He is now remembered as a genuine democrat. Prime Minister Gilani also has an opportunity of his lifetime to show his leadership qualities. In order to be an effective chief executive, he must show his personal calibre and authority to prove himself different from his predecessor, the short cut of a prime minister, the one and only Shaukat Aziz. Only policies and decisions implemented under Gilani's own signature would make the difference, imprinting his name on history. He should look at the constitution, and see what systemic aberrations inherited from the Musharraf era need to be removed. He cannot close his eyes to the popular verdict in the February 18 election last year. The people had voted overwhelmingly against General Musharraf and entrusted the two mainstream political parties with a clear mandate for change in the country. They opted for democracy, and voted for restoration of the 1973 constitution and independence of the judiciary. They wanted immediate reinstatement of deposed judges of the superior courts. This was their clear verdict on February 18. But what is the reality today? It is a pathetic scene. "Plus a change, plus c'est la mme chose." The more things change, the more they remain the same. This French aphorism perhaps best describes our current political scene. We have a government which the people brought to power to bring about an end to dictatorship. It was a vote of no confidence against General Musharraf and the system that he represented. It was a referendum for change but the change never came. The country remains possessed by the same visible and invisible ghosts. We are living with the same persons, the same problems and the same policies. Not only has the judges' issue been deliberately complicated by linking it with larger constitutional issues but the government has also failed miserably in redressing common man's day-to-day problems. The people are facing difficulties that they had never experienced before, including unbearable gas and power outages, serious law and order situation, endemic corruption and daily suicide attacks. With the post-election political and economic situation deteriorating rapidly, the country is in a state of drift. Neither the Parliament nor the government inspires any hope or confidence among the people. The dictator's legacy in the form of Seventeenth Amendment still adorns the presidency. We still are without real democracy. The people are disappointed that their elected Parliament is being held hostage to the whims of political 'laterals'. They are now beginning to wonder whether they made the right choice in the February elections. Our politicians cannot forever lay the blame for the current problems on the outgoing regime or continue to hide behind convenient scapegoats. Public discontent is brewing and may soon reach a point where the people may start thinking of an alternative leadership. These are exceptional times warranting exceptional decisions. Ad hoc measures will not do. More than anyone else, Prime Minister Gilani has the responsibility to take on this challenge. If he considers Gordon Brown as his counterpart, then he should act like Gordon Brown. Like Junejo, he should act like a real prime minister. It is not enough only to remove one remnant of the Musharraf era. There are many other remnants that provide continuity to the obsolete system. He must show decisiveness in implementing Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto's pledge to the nation. It is time to restore genuine democracy based on constitutional supremacy, rule of law, independence of judiciary and good governance in full implementation of the Charter of Democracy. History will judge him as the elected prime minister not on what he says about the role America's Vice-President-elect Joe Biden played in removing General Musharraf's uniform or in facilitating the elections in Pakistan. Gilani should not be reading from Joe Biden's Hilal-e-Pakistan citation while making "policy statements" in the Parliament. Joe Biden did play an important role in supporting the cause of democracy in Pakistan but let history judge him when he implements his administration's "new approach" in remaking the US-Pakistan relationship with policy focus on the people of Pakistan rather than on the rulers. But Pakistan's prime minister should not be denigrating the role his own Shaheed leader, Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto played with her supreme sacrifice in bringing the Musharraf era to an end. Her soul must be turning restlessly in her grave even with what her party is doing to the pledges she made to the nation during the very last days of her life. Alas, Pakistan's 'democrats' seem to have learnt no lessons and have gone back on what they promised the people of Pakistan in the Bhurban Declaration and on everything their leaders had agreed in their historic but shelved Charter of Democracy. Gilani is approaching the first anniversary of his prime ministerial tenure. His track record so far has been inconsequential, if not dismal. No miracles were expected but at least by now there should have been some vision and some direction visible in the actions and policies of his government. No one expected the larger issues of terrorism, poverty, illiteracy and unemployment to disappear in one year. They might take decades if not longer to be addressed. But at least, a sincere effort could have been made by the elected prime minister to undo the constitutional, judicial and economic wrongs of the outgoing regime. What he needs to know is that all governmental deeds and misdeed are being recorded in the name of the prime minister, not the president. The prime minister is the constitutional chief executive and competent authority for all governmental actions. Today, everyone blames Shaukat Aziz for all the failures of the Musharraf era. General Musharraf is having the best of time, and is now lecturing the world on "good governance." Poor Shaukat Aziz bears the brunt for all the governance lapses, and cannot even return to his native land. Ironically, no one in his "electoral" constituency even remembers his name. This is a grim scenario. Prime Minister Gilani must save himself from becoming another Shaukat Aziz. Otherwise he will be perennially clubbed with the responsibility of all the governance failures and systemic "miscarriages" in the country. As a mature and self-respecting political player, he must escape this ignominy at every cost and show his grit by calling spade a spade. He could make history by reviving the 1973 constitution in its unadulterated form. This is his challenge. The writer is a former foreign secretary