Finally it appears that things may be moving in the right direction in Pakistan. The notice issued by the Supreme Court to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf to appear in person or through his lawyer before the court on July 29 to defend his position regarding the proclamation of emergency on November 3, 2007 and replacing the constitution with the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) comes like a whiff of fresh air in an environment stifled with a sordid history of the frequent use of the doctrine of necessity to legitimise military take-overs. The decision was taken after much deliberation within the bench with an express intention that, instead of letting the case go against the retired general by default, he should be given an opportunity to defend his position. Ostensibly, the decision expands the ambit of the case in lieu of the original petition filed by the Sindh High Court Bar Association against non-confirmation of two SHC judges and would now look into a galaxy of issues including revisiting the Tikka Iqbal Muhammad case of validating the November 3 emergency to deciding the fate of the PCO judges to amendments made in the constitution and related effects of the imposition of emergency including, but not limited to, the enactment of the much-derided and extremely controversial National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). Only a day earlier, the chief justice of the Supreme Court had saluted the Parliament for not having validated the unconstitutional orders of the former military dictator and had also cleared the general elections held in 2008 as not having been held under the PCO. The limitations of the democratic rulers notwithstanding, the critical fact remains that democracy in Pakistan was never given the time to mature to start delivering its fruits. Whenever it showed signs of overcoming the fear of another martial law, there appeared a general to do just that and push the country back a few more years. In spite of the much touted decade of reforms under the first military dictator, thanks to the sickening sycophancy syndrome that some of the bureaucrats were inflicted with, Pakistan suffered enormously in terms of ceding its writ before the marauding boots of individuals who wanted to rule by their whims and fancies. The tradition has, unfortunately, continued through over six decades of Pakistan's existence and most of the ills that it suffers from today, including the cancers of drugs, guns, extremism and terrorism, can be traced back to the infatuation of these despots who thought they knew more and better than the collective wisdom of a nation expressed through its inalienable right to choose its own leaders in a transparent and free manner. They came riding the barrels of guns, they destroyed whatever had been laboriously built and they departed to survive behind the shield of the immunity extended to their illegal and unconstitutional take-overs vide the criminal concoction of the doctrine of necessity. In that backdrop, the very act of having issued the notice to a former military dictator to appear before a court is a symbolic move that would boost the confidence of a nation. But, we must not stop there. We must follow up on this first move to ensure that the malaise of military dictatorships is buried conclusively and the country is freed of the fear of having to go through the pangs of another democratic birth. For that to happen, General (retd) Musharraf must be made to appear before the court and answer for the crimes that he so nonchalantly and demonically inflicted on this hapless country. His dictatorship is unique in the sense that he is the only despot who incarcerated almost 60 judges of the superior courts through an unconstitutional edict that exclusively meant to elongate his illegal hold on power by giving him another five years in the presidency. He imposed emergency on November 3, 2007 in contravention of the injunction of a six-member bench of the Supreme Court that had forestalled it. It remains a lingering anomaly that has to be corrected. The chief justice was also candid in terms of blaming the judiciary for much of the harm that has been administered to the burgeoning edifice of a nation state for its abject failure in standing up to the diktat of a spate of military dictators. Its controversial role in legitimising dictatorships is a sordid chapter of our history and here is the chance to not only undo it, but ensure that never again would any one dare to repeat it. Such is the mammoth task that lies before the 14-member bench of the Supreme Court that is hearing the petition. One also understands that the PPP government is caught on a tricky wicket. The prospect of the annulment of the controversial NRO must be sending shivers down its spine as it would adversely impact a number of its leaders who had used its provisions to have the cases outstanding against them written off. This includes the man on the hill himself who is the principal beneficiary of the illegal, immoral and unconstitutional piece of legislation enacted by a sitting military dictator. His continued presence in house on the hill notwithstanding, the annulment of the NRO, if and when it comes through, would result in enormous moral, even legal pressure on his credentials to be president. Would he, then, follow his mentor General (retd) Musharraf and take to the cooler climes of security, or would he opt to give it a fight? That makes for an engrossing legal battle that would test the best of the country. I can't quite make out where the irrepressible Aitzaz Ahsan would stand? Is it the principle of the supremacy of law that would guide him as it should, or his oft-repeated allegiance to his party would get the better of him? We are living through interesting times. In spite of a myriad of serious problems including a battered economy, widespread corruption, lack of governance and the spectres of militancy and insurgency, Pakistan seems to be coming of age. Its inherent potential that has been criminally neglected by a succession of dictatorships is bursting at the seams and is not invisible to those who have the capacity to see. The judicial battle is the bridge that Pakistan must cross over with courage and determination because, on the other side, is hope and promise that the country would finally be able to shed the excruciating pain it has continued to suffer from ever since its inception: the pain of a despotic mindset. It has taken over 60 years to confront this mindset and brave the first meaningful step on the road to salvation The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: