The inevitable has happened. The romance that started more than three years ago in London with the signing of the Charter of Democracy and was laboriously sustained through empty proclamations regarding the restoration of judiciary and annulment of all edicts of the former dictator lie buried under the overwhelming weight of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). The incontrovertible lust for absolute power has got the better of Mr Zardari and every thing connected with the constitution or the rule of law. There seems no turning point as we plunge headlong into the politics of revenge and acrimony, symptomatic of the destructive belligerence of the eighties and the nineties. The intent of the Supreme Court injunction was summarily proven by the subsequent imposition of the Governor's Rule for two months in Punjab. If that were not the case, and if saving democracy were any of the intentions of the PPP clique in power, the governor should have proceeded with calling the Provincial Assembly to session so that a new leader of the house could be elected. But that session would have been called only if the PPP had the numbers to nominate its own chief minister. Since matters could not be sorted out with the PML-Q, and since allowing the PML-N to stay in power was never the intention, the option to impose the Governor's Rule was the only alternative so that an interim period could be gained for getting the requisite numbers for the PPP through the use of coercion, intimidation, bribing and whatever other tricks the ruling conglomerate would be able to lay its hands on. Democratic norms being the immediate victim of the judiciary-executive martial law, what does the judgement entail for the country? Quite obviously, the immediate cause that provoked the injunction that would do a dictator proud was the threat that the lawyers' long march and the sit-in posed to the ruling hierarchy. Its avowed aversion to restoring the judiciary to its November 2, 2007 position emanates from the impending dangers that the move may entail for the NRO and, thus, the future of Mr Zardari to continue sitting atop the hill. With an intention of scuttling the march in Punjab, the PPP leadership resorted to all possible tactics to dissuade the PML-N in extending support to the lawyers' move. After having failed in its endeavours, the inevitable remained only a matter of time. It came when it came because it could come no later than that. With the imposition of the Governor's Rule in Punjab, the prospect of the fight being waged inside the assemblies has greatly diminished. The speaker of the assembly is also its custodian and not allowing him to enter the house is like driving the last nail in the coffin of a possible reconciliation. The battle lines have been clearly drawn and mutual accommodation does not appear to be an option of the unfurling drama. There is unrest on the streets throughout Punjab and odd incidents have also been reported from other provinces. The lawyers remain adamant in going ahead with their proposed long march. Arrests of the leaders of the movement as well as of the PML-N together with undue use of the state apparatus are instruments that the PPP hoisted governor may resort to in order to sabotage the advent of the march for the restoration of an independent judiciary and the rule of law in the country. Looking at it from another angle, what has prompted the current deadlock? While there may be other contributing factors, the principal reason relates to the inherent fear that Mr Zardari suffers from as a consequence of forcing his way through to the highest office of the state riding the crest of the illegal and unconstitutional NRO. This piece of a dictator's proclamation cannot stand before any independent court and would be thrown out on the first hearing. Having come this far, Mr Zardari also seems to have erased all possibilities of a retreat. This is exactly the environment that encourages 'external' factors to come into play as they have done so often in the past. Is that the fate accompli, or ways and means could still be found to avert the threshold? What is of paramount relevance is that the chief of army staff has been away on a visit to the United States while this drama was being enacted in the country. Obviously, he would be fully informed about the ongoing shenanigans: either by the ruling clique, or his own advisors. Is he on board? Does he agree with the steps that the ruling clique has unfurled in quick succession, or would he consider the developments counter to creating stability in the country which is so critical to successfully combating the mounting pressure from all quarters with regard to Pakistan's apparent inability to deal with the escalating violence? This pressure is likely to increase further after the government's decision to sign peace deals with people who have been engaged in acts of violence till the recent past. With growing political instability inside the country, is Pakistan geared to facing the evolving challenges? There are also people who are convinced that there really is no problem in the country. As a matter of fact, the political environment was never so conducive as it is today, but the same is being consciously damaged to ensure the continuation in power of one person. If you remove him from the equation, the political parties would be able to live with each other comfortably through the tenure of the current assemblies. Substantial circumstantial evidence lends credence to this presumption. Nawaz Sharif was also careful in distinguishing between the PPP and the man who sits atop the hill: his attack was directed against Mr Zardari and not against the party. Is it a game gimmick, or is there substance in the assumption? The reported differences between the president and the prime minister are further proof of a gross mishandling of the state affairs to the angst of most and reprieve of few. Does the fledgling system have the will to avert this plunge, or is the slide already irreversible that may prompt 'external' players to enter the fray? Before rushing to any conclusion, consider the prospect: if the system could be put back on the rails by just pulling one person out, how many ayes and how many nays? The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com