PAKISTAN'S polity, presently engaged in a strenuous struggle to throw off the shackles of military rule and function as a full-fledged democracy, would be best served if the leadership were to adhere to the ideals that Allama Muhammad Iqbal, the poet-philosopher who conceived the idea of Pakistan and who passed away 70 years ago this day, had set forth before the Muslims of the Subcontinent. In his vision, there is certainly no room for the association of generals with the political system. They are supposed to defend the physical frontiers of the motherland and act in accordance with the wishes of their political masters. The actual running of the state is the business of politicians, who return to power through a periodic exercise of a free and fair universal ballot, the lynchpin of democratic order. But a separate state for the Muslims of undivided India did not mean that it would be run on theocratic lines. Iqbal was an outspoken opponent of theocracy. Of course, the sterling principles of our religion would serve as the guiding light for legislative purposes and the conduct of daily lives. But, unfortunately those who had opposed the creation of Pakistan in the name of religion soon started flexing their muscles, assuming the mantle of selt styled guardians of state ideology . However, social justice that dispenses equitably the fruits of the modern age - education that makes the human resource fit for today's globalised world, healthcare that makes life worthwhile, to mention just two - to all citizens without distinction would make Pakistan a role model for the rest of the Islamic world and make the great thinker's soul happier. By a cruel twist of fate, however, the people who won the country through a long and hard struggle under the guidance of an uncompromising democrat, Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah, soon lost it to be run by politicians having vested interests and whose strings were constantly being pulled by bureaucratic and military forces from behind the scenes. And not long after that, the armed forces edged out the rest of the power circles to establish their sole rule. The world saw them in the seat of power for more than half of the country's life and the systematic destruction of its democratic traditions. Now that a people's movement for establishing the rule of law, admirably led by the legal community, has almost tipped the balance against Army rule, no attempt must be made to keep General Musharraf in power. It is time for a final push. Or else, the country could once again see political polarisation, social unrest and the possibility of a reassertion of military power. However, the saving grace is the widespread consciousness of democratic rights among the masses. The judicial crisis has shown how passionate are their yearnings. One earnestly hopes that President Musharraf reads the writing on the wall and bows out. There is still time for a somewhat honourable exit.