Pakistan's history is a story of constant tussle between the forces of status quo on the one side and progressive forces on the other. The former are represented by the well-entrenched civil-military establishment which in league with the feudal landlords and other ruling classes of the society has established an extremely oppressive and exploitative system of governance in the country. The main objective of the forces of status quo is to maintain their privileged political, economic and administrative position in the society at the expense of the political, civil and economic rights of the vast majority of the citizens of Pakistan. Arrayed against this formidable combination are the forces of progress and change represented by progressive political parties, enlightened members of the civil society, media, lawyers and the downtrodden sections of the population. Their struggle is for putting an end to the stranglehold of the oppressive forces on the political and economic life of the nation so that the common man may enjoy a life free of want and injustice. The oppressive and exploitative role of the forces of status quo can be traced back to the colonial era when they acted as the linchpin of the colonial rule in the British India. Their posture vis--vis the colonial power was that of total submission. However, considering themselves as the projection of the colonial power, they acted as the rulers of the people at large. Following the departure of the British after the independence, the need to submit to the colonial power vanished. However, since old habits die hard, Pakistan's civil-military establishment and our feudal aristocracy continued to look to the West for guidance and even for inspiration. As regards their attitude towards the people of the country, they assumed the mantle of overlordship considering themselves as the legitimate successors of their colonial masters. Most of Pakistan's political ills can be traced to this attitude of contempt that our ruling classes consisting of the civil-military establishment and the feudal aristocracy have exhibited towards the masses. Little wonder that they have consistently held the view that our people are incapable of governing themselves through their elected representatives, easily forgetting that Pakistan came into being through vote by the people while the predecessors of our civil-military establishment and feudal aristocracy were serving their colonial masters. It is this belief which led to the propagation of the theory of guided democracy which in various forms has continued to guide the thinking of our military rulers and some sections of our civil establishment since the days of Pakistan's first military ruler. It is this mistaken notion which has led to repeated overthrows of the elected governments by the adventurous generals of the Pakistan army. The prolonged periods of military rule with the support of the self-serving civil establishment and feudal aristocracy have inevitably stunted the country's political evolution, aggravated political instability, undermined the rule of law, accentuated inequalities of income and wealth, denied justice to the weak and the down-trodden, and obstructed attempts to reform the prevailing inequitable economic and social system. Thus, the path to real progress, which always involves reform and change, was blocked by our establishment or the ruling classes. Instead their focus has been on preserving the prevailing unjust status quo with a view to safeguarding their privileged position in the society. The prerequisites of real progress in the modern world include the rule of law to ensure justice, political stability within a democratic framework to allow the people to govern themselves through their elected representatives, an equitable economic system to provide necessities of life and equality of opportunities, emphasis on human development particularly on education and health, and intellectual enlightenment involving the quest for knowledge, a spirit of enquiry and the willingness to change and reform for attaining high ideals. Unfortunately, during the past sixty years our establishment on the whole has played a negative role in the preparation of the ground for real progress in the country. Take the case of the rule of law which is the most important distinguishing feature of a modern society and which is an indispensable condition for ensuring justice. Our ruling classes have generally taken a casual attitude towards ensuring the rule of law in the country. It was not surprising, therefore, to see some of our top civil servants conniving in the illegal attempts by Musharraf to suspend or remove Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry from his high office last year just because he had dared to question the irregular deal to privatise the Pakistan Steel Mills during the premiership of Shaukat Aziz (the recent disclosure by the ex-chief of PSM leaves no doubt in this regard), had shown the courage to take our all-powerful intelligence agencies to task for involuntary disappearances of our citizens in violation of the law of the land, and had taken suo moto notice of wrongdoings by the executive arm of the government to provide justice to the aggrieved parties. Contrary to what the defenders of the unjust status quo in the country would like us to believe, the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges of the superior judiciary, who were illegally removed from their offices by Musharraf through his unconstitutional emergency of November 3, 2007, to their high offices is not an issue involving a few individuals. It is in fact an issue involving the very independence of the judiciary and the rule of law in the country. If the President is allowed to get away with this wholesale slaughter of the superior judiciary, it would sound death knell for the rule of law in this country for a long time to come. The restoration of the honourable deposed judges to the position as on November 2, 2007 is, therefore, part and parcel of the struggle of the progressive and enlightened sections of the society for ensuring the independence of the judiciary and establishing the rule of law in Pakistan. It is a classic case where the fate of the individuals is inextricably linked with the fate of the institution. Equally unacceptable is the argument advanced by Musharraf's apologists belonging to the establishment that the government and the people should ignore the judges' issue and focus exclusively on resolving the issues of poverty, hunger and deprivation in the society. Interestingly this misleading argument is advanced precisely by those who are primarily responsible for the serious economic problems currently faced by the country and who have, historically speaking, undermined the rule of law and denied justice to the common man. In fact, the people expect the government both to provide justice and resolve the serious economic difficulties faced by them. For justice, without which no society can survive and prosper, the rule of law is a must. In our case, the restoration of the deposed judges would be an essential step towards establishing the rule of law which is an essential requirement even for providing a sound basis for the efficient management of the economy. Actually the real interest of those parties and classes, which are opposed to the restoration of the judges and the rule of law, is in the preservation of the unjust status quo in the form of their political, economic and administrative control over the society. It is unfortunate that some political parties, which were founded on anti-establishment slogans, are allowing themselves to be used by the establishment for the fulfilment of its nefarious designs which militate against the progress of the country and the welfare of the people. In the face of this challenge by the retrogressive and pro-status quo elements, it is the duty of the progressive forces to unite to put the country on the path towards progress and enlightenment. The writer is a former ambassador E-mail: