He should never have had to step down as president. Because he should never have been the president in the first place. There is always sympathy for the underdog. It's human nature. He was never quite the underdog but he's down and out now. It is inevitable, therefore, that the sympathy follows. The chattering classes have already started at it. And the tea stall legions will soon follow after the standard lag time of two weeks or so. It won't be original stuff. The standards bits about him at least being better than the lot running the country right now. There'll be the bits, unfounded really, about things on the law and order front being better on his watch than the alliance's. Then there's the economy. A consequence of the polity's penchant for praetorian rule is the casual exclusion from the debate of the fact that he usurped power and ousted an elected prime minister. Anywhere else, this would have tainted his record even if we do assume, by a fantastic stretch of the imagination, that he was better at the whole governance thing than his successors. And predecessors. Politics Science 101, sirs. Let's run you through it. (And let's hope the student body at Kakul is reading this too; I know they get a couple of copies of this paper.) Overthrowing a democratically elected government and subverting the constitution is a downright vulgar act. Even if a coup is bloodless, it is essentially an act of violence against the people. At the worst of times, it should always be remembered that no good can come out of it. Ever. This is directed not just at the retired general. But to everybody else who supported the regime change in '99. To the PPP, whose activists infamously distributed sweets when they heard the news. To the ANP, who lost some of their old time redshirt comrades when the party leadership welcomed the change. To the likes of Imran Khan, who supported him in the beginning and still insists he turned coat because he found him insincere (they don't teach you much at an Oxford PPE either, it seems.) To the PML-N, the bulk of which eventually became the King's party. To the Lawyers' Movement; the odd ministerial portfolio tainting even them. Next, we will come at the other stuff. If you want to make the country more liberal, you've got to be, at the expense of stating the obvious, more liberal. On a certain level, Iran, despite it's repressive government, is more liberal than Egypt. You can't have liberalism without democracy. Make a decision: is it liberalism you want or the Neo Liberal Project? If you want to make the lot of the country's women better, remember that this is a conservative, near misogynistic country. Genuine change for them can only be brought about by the representatives of the country. Anything else, including the downright silly 33 percent quota for women in the assemblies, would be a cosmetic change. The economy: you can't quantify general economic well-being by how many cell phones have been sold. Or, as you repeated even in your resignation speech, hotel occupancy. It's about far more boring stuff like, say, gini coefficients, which quantify economic disparity in a country, that do the trick. It's not computer software or telecom but wheat crops, coal mines and power grids that drive us forward. The media: The media might have been given more freedom but things should be put in perspective. There is only one country in the world today that practices old-school totalitarianism, North Korea. And even Dear Leader Kim hasn't been able to stop TV channels being beamed into the country. How could the most repressive of regimes have stopped, at this stage of technology, the influx of private media? It would have been the same whether the PPP had been in charge or PML-N. Whether the media has been left alone is another issue. Let us not forget Mr Hayatullah, dedicated FATA correspondent of this very publication. Let us not forget his wife. Let us not forget November 3. The army as a political entity, unfortunately, has a constituency in the country. It is primarily based in central, northern Punjab and Karachi, but is present throughout the country as well. It is what the polity starts looking towards whenever things get bad. And things get bad in the best of democracies. Things won't change until certain questions can be asked. But there are cognitive limitations at Kakul, Risalpur and Karachi that makes any serious questioning off bounds. A genuine belief, nay dogma, in their competence and efficiency makes any questions of the sort seem either silly or seditious. (Better to be deemed the former, I don't want to go Hayatullah's way.) But unless certain questions can be asked, we can expect to see many more of the likes of the retired general.