August 18, 2008 was indeed a historic day in Pakistan's history - the strong man of Pakistan bowed before public opinion and resigned. Pakistan completed yet another step towards true democracy and the nation showed to the world that we too can resolve our issues wisely and maturely, without violence and strife. Some people are celebrating because they feel Musharraf was a dictator and usurper of the constitution whose removal served the ends of justice. To me at this stage what Musharraf was or did (bad or good), is not important. What is however cause of rejoicing is that people of Pakistan have been spared the turmoil and uncertainty of having to go through the process of impeachment, which surely would have, to say the least, brought the country's governance to yet another stand still for many months. Under the law the ex-president was entitled to receive a charge sheet and to defend himself through all constitutional means [dissolution of assemblies under Article 58-2(b) was available to him]. He could also have filed a petition in the Supreme Court challenging the constitutionality of the charge sheet itself. Depending on the allegations against him, the defence could have roped in various high ranking army officers and senior judges of Supreme Court, and in case of assemblies' dissolution certainly would have led to civil unrest and posed a serious threat to democracy in Pakistan. All this was avoided by Musharraf deciding to voluntarily step down. Whatever else one may say, this was an act which needs to be appreciated. The crucial question is, having achieved all this, what next? More than 70 people died yesterday and war on Pakistan has been officially declared by terrorist organisations. It is need of the hour to concentrate on this war and neither the nation nor democracy is ready for any further controversies. There are now some obvious dos and don'ts which should be on the minds of the coalition government. First the constitution provides that presidential elections have to be completed within 30 days. In a coalition set-up, the choice of a presidential candidate politically rests with the majority party. All coalition partners should, in this spirit, make the election of the president as free from dispute as possible by accepting its candidate. Alternatively, if any of the coalition parties have serious objections then they should follow the democratic norms, put forward their own candidate, and in true parliamentary spirit have an election. Let the candidate with the majority votes win. This will only strengthen democracy. What they must not do however is under the garb of conciliation linger on with this issue till it becomes a dispute. Simultaneously with the election of the president, the coalition government should waste no time in finishing, once and for all, the discord and issue of judges' restoration. With Musharraf gone there is now no apparent reason why the deposed judges cannot be reinstated as soon as possible by one or the other means. Indeed all parties and segments of society are unanimous that the action of judges' removal was wrong. The only contention between PPP and PML-N is as regards modus operandi and extent of the restoration. PPP has taken a stance that any restoration has to be accomplished through constitutional amendment and are of the view that in this way not only what has happened in past will be validated but independence of judiciary would be better secured. PPP would also like to see tenure and power of the chief justice reduced, the aim being to restore Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry but also constitutionally retire him at the same time (as was done by Z A Bhutto in case of Justice Sardar Iqbal, Chief Justice of Lahore High Court, who was forcibly retired through reduction of his tenure under a constitutional amendment). On the other hand, PML-N and various Bar Associations of the country are convinced that the best legal way forward is to restore judges through an executive action. The matter has been debated in the press and media and legal minds are divided as to what is the lawful method of restoration. Whatever may be the way to restore, one thing is certain that since November 2007 the superior courts of Pakistan have been functioning and various judgements and cases have attained finality. It is possible that many death sentences have been upheld by the existing courts. Similarly on executive side, various decisions have been taken, rules and regulations implemented. Even elections of February 18, 2008 have been held under "the Post November 2007 Legal Order." Accordingly even if one accepts the point of view of many that the present judiciary is "unconstitutional", no one can deny that Pakistan has been governed since November 2007 within such a judicial system. This situation of uncertainty is to be corrected. It is therefore the constitutional duty of parliament to give legal cover to what has happened in order for the country to move into the next phase. While it is arguable whether restoration of judges is to be linked with this process of validation, the real point is that with Musharraf gone, both coalition partners should now concentrate on the end result, which is that those deposed have to be reinstated, rather than dispute the means through which that end has to be achieved. My particular advice to Nawaz Sharif and his PML-N is that this is not a stage to be obstructive and they should work towards bringing back the judges in whatever way politically and legally possible, rather than giving deadlines and trying to dictate the methods. If the only possibility at this sage is to agree to a constitutional amendment package, then so be it and everybody should work towards making the package as free from controversy as possible, debate it and use their votes to pass it as swiftly as possible. Statistically speaking there are no hurdles in doing so because the coalition have enough numbers, and even some parliamentarians outside the coalition have expressed their willingness to support such a move. In fact it may be more appropriate at this crucial and triumphant juncture in our history, that we take this opportunity (when the numbers in parliament are available and will and spirit of cooperation is still there amongst political parties) to include in this package all the immediately needed constitutional amendments required in the 1973 constitution. The package should be confined to the restoration of judiciary, necessary validation for that purpose, and to soften the criticism against validation, elimination of Article 58-2(b) (the larger constitutional package floated by a law minister should go back to the relevant parliamentary). Equally important what the government must not do (or else it will get derailed from the right track) is to adopt a policy of blame game. Even if many people in Pakistan would like to see Musharraf (and others involved in running country's affairs) to be prosecuted, tried and sentenced, it is for the politicians to act like true statesmen and mould public opinion towards reconciliation and forgiveness because surely it is in the best national interest. Take the example of South Africa. The native African Community suffered one of the most cruel and inhumane treatments meted out to any race at the hands of the "White" minority, but when the native Africans toppled the Apartheid Regime and formed their own government, they, for the sake of the nation as a whole, did not pursue the policy of "vendetta" but adopted reconciliation, confession and forgiveness. Pakistan has to move forward and look towards the future also. The same old attitude of wanting to see people punished and of being vindictive is not what the country needs right now notwithstanding public opinion. The argument that punishment will deter future usurpers may be valid, but accountability and ihtasab in Pakistan has neither worked well nor is a real deterrent. In any case the disadvantage and turmoil such legal proceedings are likely to create, as well as the uncertainty and division which may occur as a result, far out weigh, the advantage. It may be true that PML-N, for example, is under pressure of its mandate, or even for personal reasons, wants an action to be taken against Musharraf under Article 6 of the constitution for high treason, yet the circumstances demand that for this party to be a truly national entity, it must rise above this. It may be that Musharraf has committed many mistakes and even some violations of constitution and may be that he left office because he felt that the success of impeachment was inevitable. This is not relevant. Instead let us take his resignation in a positive spirit and assume that he acted in the country's best interest. We should also not forget that during past ten years many positive things also took place, some of which were pointed out in Musharraf's speech, which include emancipation of women, bringing them into the main political fold where they are heard, establishment of local body system and policy of pride in one's culture. It is very easy to flog a dead horse but true leadership demands that one should have the courage to go against the tide, be flexible and let the past rest. The guilt or innocence of Musharraf will be judged on the touchstone of the kind of governance which the PPP led coalition can give to the people in the coming years. If the leaders at both federal and provincial levels can deliver the goods to the nation, that would be sufficient condemnation. If the politicians end up squabbling with each other, fail to give good governance to the country, are unable to take concrete steps to meet existing crises and do not take the country out of troubled waters, then they would have failed and it is this failure which could then result in another dictatorship. The best option is therefore that instead of seeking deterrence through punishment the politicians should try and secure democracy by making the constitution stronger in letter and spirit and by their actions. Good governance has proved to be the best prevention against any adventurism. Government needs to prioritise vital matters facing the country such as ongoing insurgency in northern areas, control of Talibanisation and terrorism, food crises and inflation. Let us not forget education without which the desired results cannot be produced. Ben Franklin rightly said, "Failing to plan is planning to fail." Government cannot waste time in legal processes or clever political games. Those who are keeping eyes on the future are living in a dreamworld. If you want to improve your future take care of the present. So what matters is the present and was it not Mr Churchill who aptly said, "A week is too long in politics." The writer is an advocate of the Supreme Court of Pakistan E-mail: