Much is being made of Mr Zardari having agreed to the restoration of the November 2 judiciary with Iftikhar Chaudhry taking over as the chief justice from March 22. This was expected as, otherwise, Mr Zardari and his batch of un-elected cronies and sycophants would have come across as patent villains for having opposed the indomitable surge towards the advent of the rule of law in the country. In spite of the sweet cover-up job, the facts did not remain hidden from those who had followed up on the undemocratic and unconstitutional role that the PPP leadership, led by none other than Mr Zardari himself, had been so consistently and so adamantly playing in sabotaging all initiatives for the restoration of the November 2 judiciary. The state of the PPP leadership was best described editorially by The Times of London on March 16: "All the right words came out of the mouth of Mr Zardari's spokesman (the czar of the Interior Ministry Rahman Malik). It is not often that a sentence containing the words dialogue, reconciliation, respect for the constitution and democratic principles can have sounded so hollow." It was never the intention of Mr Zardari and his self-perpetuating batch of advisors to restore the judiciary. The timing of the court decisions against the PML-N leadership and the subsequent imposition of the Governor's Rule in the province belied the president's real intentions: scuttle the long march in Punjab by using all the brutal state apparatus at the command of the governor who had earlier vowed to install a PPP government in the province. The entire country was virtually put under siege and Islamabad gave the impression of a fortified capital where even eagles wouldn't dare All this was not to be as, at the critical juncture on the morning of March 15, Mian Nawaz Sharif, in spite of calming advice from the American and the British leaderships, shrugged off all purported threats to his life and took to the roads. A few hundred people who left the PML-N office in Model Town had transformed into a surging mass of hundreds of thousands by the time the procession had reached Shahdara. Rest is history that would be told and re-told in the annals of what a genuine people's movement can accomplish in a short span of time and space. So, let there be no effort to confuse facts with fiction. It is not Mr Zardari who did it. On the contrary, it was done in spite of Mr Zardari who, along with his coterie of advisors, remains a monumental hurdle in the way of allowing the people of the country to savour the fruits of the rule of law. There are moves afoot to put a spanner in the works. The Governor's Rule in the Punjab continues. The likes of Malik Qayyum and Sharifuddin Pirzada are, once again, being echoed in the corridors of power. Smelling a conspiracy, Aitzaz Ahsan fired a timely warning that no attempt should be made to subvert the process of the restoration of the deposed judges and that the lawyers were still in the streets and would respond accordingly. While the restoration of the November 2 judiciary may have been the crowing glory of a long struggle launched by the lawyers' community, fully supported by the democratic political forces and the civil society of the country, it also poses a formidable challenge to the members of the restored benches. The remnants of the November 3 martial law edict keep tarnishing the hopes of the people who waged the long struggle not for it to continue bedevilling the burgeoning aspirations for the advent of a truly democratic polity in the country, but for it to be tackled effectively in the spirit of the constitution and the rule of law. The edict threw up beneficiaries, courtesy the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), who occupy all seats of power in the federation and are seemingly determined to hang on to the fruits of the sell-out in the name of reconciliation and democracy. The sordid provincial twist that the leaders of the PPP and its erstwhile partner in Sindh and at the centre, the two major parties that have benefited the most as a result of the illegal and unconstitutional NRO, tried to give to the movement that took shape in the Punjab, is enough indication of the extent to which these forces would go in thwarting any real fruits of the movement from accruing to the people of the country. If that were to be so, the rationale behind the movement would be defeated. The movement was not launched for restoring a few individuals to the throne. The spirit behind the movement was restoration of an independent judiciary that would be empowered to take decisions fearlessly in strict consonance with the letter and the spirit of the constitution. The restored judiciary is not meant to sanctify the illegality and unconstitutionality of a dictator's edicts. Instead, it is meant to proceed against him as it would against any ordinary mortal. Dictators and their remnants and perpetual cronies must not be allowed to wear the mantle of the constitution for it would help preserve the germs for another adventurist to strike in due course. It is time, as the people's movement has so candidly, so vehemently and so forcefully demonstrated, to eliminate every false pretence for the undemocratic forces to strike in the future. One understands it is a legacy that has piled up through generations. One also understands that it poses daunting challenges. But, it would be negating the spirit of the movement if this sordid legacy were to be left unattended and un-remedied. In the chequered history of the country, the judiciary were never better placed than now to proceed fearlessly with tackling the critical issues that have hampered the advent of genuine democracy in the country. It has the constitution on its side. It has the law and morality supporting it. It has the will of the people urging it on. It has a helpful tide giving it substance and speed. The PPP house is in disarray. Having long lost its moral ascendancy by opting to prolong the policies of the dictator it replaced through the much-maligned and controversial NRO, it has reneged on its pre-election promises of ushering in an era of democracy in the country. In the wake of the historic people's movement that resulted in the restoration of the judiciary, it is caught on the wrong side of history as it continues to conspire to thwart the advent of an independent judiciary in the country and hangs on to power in the Punjab through an illegal Governor's Rule. It appears that the fear syndrome that the PPP leadership is in the grip of, would finally consume it as sabotaging the will of the people now appears only a wily dream that may never see the light of the day The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com