Events of February 13 evening stunned the entire nation. In a 'shock and awe response, a specially constituted three member Supreme Court bench outsmarted and suspended within hours of their issue, two government notifications, that had ordered the elevation of the Lahore High Court Chief Justice Khawaja Sharif to the Supreme Court and appointment of Justice Saqib Nisar as Acting Chief Justice LHC, respectively. If earlier it was honourable Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who became the nations hero by standing up to a military ruler, the country got another judicial hero in Justice Saqib Nisar, who declined to take oath as Acting CJ Lahore High Court even before the special SC bench shot down the governments orders. In doing so, he maintained his loyalty to the chief justice and preempted division in the judiciary. The atmosphere of events that evening had a touch of November 3, 2007 scenario, when General (retd) Pervez Musharraf arrogantly declared a state of emergency and struck at the heart of the judiciary. Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his seven member bench went down fighting but not before declaring the November 3 actions illegal. But, the major questions are, was the governments February 13 orders counter offensive against the Supreme Courts NRO verdict? Was it a subtle attempt to undermine the unity of the higher judiciary through a 'divide and rule strategy? Did the government underestimate the SCs reaction? Has this gamble backfired? Is the government not aware of the ramifications of challenging the writ of judiciary by not implementing the Supreme Courts decisions related to the 'infamous NRO? Imagine the state of anarchy that would prevail if the culture of disobeying the courts decisions permeates all levels of the judiciary. What would happen to our society if the 'rule of law goes for a six? Needless to say that it is the prime responsibility and obligation of any democratic government to support and strengthen the judiciary. Any effort to sabotage the writ or strike at the sanctity of the judiciary is likely to have far-reaching consequences for the countrys future. Therefore when the entire 17 member panel of the Supreme Court directed in the NRO case, December 16 Short Order followed by a detailed judgment in January, that NABs hierarchy including its chairman, prosecutor general and additional prosecutor general be replaced, the decision should have been implemented immediately. No wonder Chief Justice Iftikhar appeared perturbed and had expressed his displeasure to the extent, stating that those who violate the courts decision need to be behind the bars. Furthermore, the February 13 government orders and the subsequent debacle reminds us of a notification issued in 2008, which placed the ISI under the Interior Ministry. Within hours of it becoming public, this order had to be withdrawn, but only after General Parvez Kayanis strong objection to the civilian leadership on its issuance. Since the ISI chief and bulk of its high ranking officials are from the army, had the COAS been consulted beforehand, the government would have been saved from a lot of embarrassment. The judiciarys new mindset is clearly evident before the nation. Restored after the historic lawyers and peoples movement, the judiciary seems determined to uphold the nations trust and confidence, safeguard the constitution, ensure rule of law and zealously protect its independence. Decisions of the Supreme Court and High Courts within the last year reflect this changed thinking and mindset. The past traditions of PCOs and LFOs may have been buried forever. The corrupt and looters of national wealth face the judiciarys wrath. It should be remembered that any attempt to come in the way of the judiciary is something that the people, including the lawyers community, will not allow at any cost. Surely, a strong and an independent judiciary remains the best guarantee for sustained democracy in Pakistan and hence the countrys future. With over 60 judges posts in the High Courts lying vacant for many months, with summaries for the judges appointments shuttling between the executive and judiciary without being finalised, the common man continues to suffer and is being denied the right to justice. Governance cannot be good if the judiciary is understaffed and accountability process is weak and slow. Likewise, democracy cannot be sustained without effective dispensation of fair and transparent justice. At the same time, the judges must not be appointed on the basis of party loyalties and affiliations. They must be selected from amongst the best in the legal fraternity with good repute, integrity and character. However, it is refreshing to hear that Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani has announced the formal withdrawal of the two suspended presidential notifications after meeting with Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry at the Prime Minister House on February 17. Perhaps, this will auger well for our nation, if done. In the current situation when the country is at war with militants and anti-state elements, the US surge in Afghanistan is readying to spill fire into Pakistan and the countrys economic hub - Karachi - sits on an ethnic and sectarian volcano, the need for national unity, respect for state institutions and overall peace and stability remains the urgent need of the hour. Confrontation between the pillars of state will be a recipe for national disaster and must be averted. Postscript: Mian Nawaz Sharif, in his latest press conference, called upon the army to stay away from the judicial crisis. Indeed Mian Sahib was right as a matter of principle, since the executive-judiciary standoff needed to be resolved on top priority through complete adherence to the concerned constitutional provisions. But had the crisis prolonged, General Kayani would once again be forced to perform the arbiters role, similar to the one on March 15 last year, in larger national interest. The writer is a retired brigadier Email: fhkhan54@gmail.com