The current political debate on political crisis is futile in the absence of fundamentals. Daily articles are being churned out in the print media to add fuel to fire. TV talk shows are feverishly engaged in adding confusion to the already complex situation. Most of these commentators are doing interior decoration without realizing that the house is on fire and the fire has to be extinguished before anything else can be done. Fundamentals are being ignored in the national debate currently under way in the length and breadth of the country. I am constrained to call a spade a spade once again and draw the attention of our chattering classes to the basics which must be addressed in line with the time-tested principle that first things come first; In my view the country can not survive much less progress without restoring the constitution of 1973. (b) The constitution of 1973 can not endure without purging it of the praetorian clauses of the infamous 17th amendment. The parliament must declare it's independence accordingly. Our maulanas must factor the compatibility of Islam and democracy in their fatwas and speeches instead of crying hoarse about their utopia called Nizam-e- Mustafa. The religious class must understand that the ideals of the Islamic system are deeply ingrained in our constitution. Instead of blasting the sole super power we need to forge cordial relations with all four of our immediate neighbors without delay. A peaceful neighborhood will help us ward off unwarranted interference by predatory powers of the world. The support of the Swat military operation must by unconditional without ifs and buts. Those parties and leaders who are bracketing suspension of US drone attacks with their support for the operation are too close to the trees to see the woods. The parties considering Islam and democracy as incompatible with each other are relics of the past and must not be given space in the print media, nor do they deserve air time on electronic media. Once the above fundamentals have been put in place we can open the floodgates of free expression to consolidate the benefits of pluralism and tolerance. We can ill afford to place the cart before the horse. -B.A. MALIK, Islamabad, via e-mail, May 17.