The PPP under Mr Zardari seems to have learnt one lesson from the Junejo era and that is to avoid giving an impression to the presidency and the powers that be that their protgs can obstruct their plans. The late Muhammad Khan Junejo was handpicked by Zia for his obviously weak personality. But they developed differences when Junejo started asserting his authority as an elected prime minister and sought punishment for the army generals responsible for the Ojhri Camp blast. The demand came amidst rumours that the ammunition dump had been blown up deliberately just to cover up the fact that some Stringer missiles from the US supplied arms for the Afghan mujahideen had been sold out within and outside the country. Junejo who had earlier clashed with Zia over the latter's refusal to sign the Geneva Accord to ensure the withdrawal of Soviet troops from Afghanistan was shown the door when he started telling the president to give up his army office and stop overstepping his jurisdiction. Perhaps he was perceived as getting too big for his boots when he began to challenge the key military appointments. All that he did was within his purview. But then the powers that be were not used to letting a civilian authority dictate its terms to them. Zia had his constituency firmly supporting him when he sacked the duly elected PM and dissolved the national and provincial assemblies. Muhammad Khan Junejo was unceremoniously dismissed on trumped-up charges while he was returning from a foreign trip. But he had made his mark and will be remembered for standing up to a military ruler and telling him to abide by his constitutional role. Similarly Mian Nawaz Sharif explored his identity when he started asserting his authority to tame the forces that had been instrumental in dismantling the democratic process in the past. The Kargil War which brought our army into disrepute and made the nation suffer humiliation at the international level must have helped him comprehend the wisdom in Winston Churchill's dictum that "war is too important a business to be left to the generals." But he was still thinking of ordering the trial of those responsible for this biggest military misadventure of the recent history when he was sacked, imprisoned and later sent into exile on the charge of plotting a coup against the army chief. Pity the poor fellow. Today he has allied himself with a party whose leadership is consciously trying to strengthen the forces that remain averse to democracy. It has kept the ruling coalition too deeply involved in the judges' issue to devise a strategy to meet the challenges threatening our sovereignty. The change in the government doesn't seem to have changed the policy of doing the US bidding as far as the ongoing War On Terror is concerned. If the Bush Administration wants the army high command to have a final say in dealing with the situation in the tribal areas rather than the civilian government resolving the crisis through political means, the PPP government feels no qualms about abdicating its responsibility. This became evident when Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani while presiding over a high-level meeting in Peshawar the other day declared that the chief of the army staff would be "the principal for application of military effort" in the tribal areas and elsewhere in the NWFP. Not just that, the Frontier Corps and the law enforcement agencies which are otherwise regarded instruments of the governor and the chief minister in their respective jurisdiction would fall within the COAS's command for military operations. Mr Gilani who is content with his role as Asif Zardari's sidekick would have us believe that the federal government would still be in firm control of the situation with the army chief keeping it informed if at all he decided to launch a military operation. But what he didn't explain was whether the parliament and the cabinet could over-rule the decision of using the force or their jurisdiction would be completely ousted from dealing with the War On Terror. If so, it will be the continuation of the Musharraf government's policies when all important decisions were taken by the military dominated National Security Council. But this Gung-ho approach of resolving what essentially was a political issue through naked aggression has left the country shaken by a spate of suicide bombings. The PPP leadership had done well by deciding to engage the tribesmen in negotiations which not only did contain violence in the restive region but also brought an end to the recurring suicide attacks. Maybe it was under the US pressure that it is now constrained to change the approach. It will however not escape the blame for dealing a deathblow to democracy by reinvigorating the army's role in the decision-making process. E-mail: