Musharraf's minions and some sections of Pakistan's political leadership have launched a veritable propaganda campaign to confuse the issue of the restoration of the judges of the superior judiciary. They have been stressing that as far as the people of Pakistan are concerned the issue of the restoration of the judges deposed on November 3 last year is of secondary importance. The people, according to them, are really interested only in the issues of roti, kapra and makan. The incumbent governor of Punjab echoed these views when he reportedly told the newsmen on June 13 that the restoration of the deposed judges was not the basic problem of the masses. Instead, according to him, food, electricity, water and their provision should be the top priority of the government. If the governor has indeed been rightly quoted, he needs a refresher course in good governance. In fact, the people need both the rule of law to protect them against the excesses of the powerful sections of the society and the state as well as an equitable economic system which guarantees basic necessities of life and equality of opportunity. Thus, good governance requires an end to both the oppression of the weak and the economic exploitation of the poor by the ruling establishment of Pakistan consisting of feudal landlords, the top military brass, senior civilian bureaucrats and unscrupulous politicians who have thrived by establishing an oppressive and exploitative system of governance in the country. It is not a question of either justice or equity. The people of Pakistan want both. This is what Governor Salman Taseer and people of his ilk should understand. It is the primary function of the state to establish the rule of law so that the society can function on orderly lines, the people are assured of their rights and the powerful are prevented from oppressing the weak. The rule of law is the most fundamental requirement for the stability, progress and prosperity of any society. For justice in the society, it is equally important that the laws are fair and equitable. A representative or democratic form of government is the best way known to mankind for ensuring that fair laws are promulgated. Thus, the essential pre-requisites of a just society and good governance are fair laws made through a representative government to regulate the political, economic and social interaction and rule of law to ensure that laws are strictly adhered to by the Executive and the individuals, by the mighty and the weak, and by the rich and the poor. A society based on social and economic injustice is doomed to self-destruction. The history of mankind provides ample evidence that injustice in the society sooner or later leads to a revolution and the overthrow of the unjust system of governance. Pakistan's ruling classes must beware lest the oppression and exploitation in our society lead to a similar situation in the country. One cannot visualise rule of law in the absence of an independent judiciary manned by judges of integrity and learning. Pervez Musharraf launched a full-fledged assault against the independence of the judiciary by suspending Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry summarily and unconstitutionally on March 9, 2007 and, following his restoration, dismissing about 60 judges of the superior judiciary including the chief justice in violation of the constitution on November 3 last year. The lawyers' struggle for the restoration of the judges is in fact a struggle for ensuring the independence of the judiciary and establishing the rule of law in the country. Those opposing it or belittling it are the representatives of the ruling elite who would like to maintain the current unjust and oppressive system in the country and would prefer the law of the jungle rather than the rule of law. It is true that rule of law has other ingredients also besides an independent judiciary. The reform of our police, which more often than not sides with the powerful instead of protecting the weak, is an equally important pre-requisite for establishing the sanctity of law in the country. We daily hear and read stories of the cruelties to which the underprivileged in our society are subjected with the law enforcement authorities and the courts being unable to provide justice in accordance with law. There are many Munno Bheels who are waiting for the return of their family members kidnapped by feudal landlords. There are many parents who do not know where to go for the punishment of the culprits responsible for kidnapping or dishonouring their daughters. In fact, the weak and the poor in our society are generally at the receiving end of all sorts of excesses, injustices and cruelties committed by the strong and the rich. And the governor would have us believe that it is not important to provide justice to the suffering weak in our society Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry challenged this reign of oppression, and exploitation by our ruling classes, by providing relief to the poor and the weak through the exercise of his suo moto powers. What he was trying to do was to establish the writ of law in the country by taking to task those who had violated the law whether they belonged to the feudal class, the Executive arm of the government or our intelligence agencies which unfortunately had become a law unto themselves. However, this was too great a sin to be tolerated by our ruling elite led by Musharraf. Our system of governance, indeed, must also provide to the people the necessities of life in the form of food, shelter, education and health care in addition to ensuring equality of opportunity. But even for these purposes and for long-term economic progress and prosperity, rule of law is a must. No investor, especially a foreign investor, would invest in a country where the sanctity of law has been undermined and where the courts are not in a position to establish the writ of law. A country where a military general can send the superior judiciary packing home cannot inspire confidence about the rule of law in the minds of prospective investors. Such a country in fact presents the picture of disorder and anarchy which are anathema to economic progress and prosperity. It is interesting to note that the people of Pakistan at large have a better understanding of these issues than our so-called leaders who, in Shakespearean language, have the good fortune of having greatness thrust upon them. According to a recent poll, 93 percent of the Pakistanis accord the highest priority to the goal of an independent judiciary (even slightly higher than the economy) and most of them blame Musharraf and PPP for failing to restore the judges sacked by the former last year. It is not surprising, therefore, that about 73 percent of the people want Musharraf to resign and if he doesn't, to be impeached. While the popularity rating of Nawaz Sharif, who has taken an unambiguous position in support of the deposed judges, has risen to 86 percent, Asif Zardari, who has been waffling on the issue perhaps to protect NRO, has only a 13 percent popularity rating. Correspondingly, PPP's popularity has gone down to 32 percent while PML-N has emerged as the most popular party with the support of 42 percent of the voters. The people of Pakistan sent an unambiguous message rejecting Musharraf and his flawed policies and calling for the restoration of judges and the independence of judiciary in the February election. The latest poll is a reminder to the ruling elite that the people want rule of law and justice as well as a significant improvement in their economic life. The leaders who fail to read the writing on the wall are likely to be consigned to the dustbin of history sooner rather than later. The writer is a former ambassador E-mail: