Over four months have passed since the long awaited free, fair and peaceful elections took place in Pakistan and one had hoped that the country and its teeming millions were finally on the golden path to stability, peace and prosperity. But the political and economic scenario remains as uncertain and unpredictable as before and there is confusion all around, with both the Sharif brothers in hot soup. Will they or won't they? Can he or can't he? How and when? Why and why not? etc., are the only issues being discussed on our TV channels, with each anchor and panel of 'experts' discussing the most bizarre theories. With so many questions being asked, one does not know as to who is coming or going and who is minding the store? No doubt, the new government can not undo the mess it has inherited due to bad and corrupt governance of the last two decades. But all the cards were on the table and the two leaders were fully aware of the difficulties and the resistance they would face. Both leaders' have been in the thick of things twice and fully aware of who 'the hidden hands' and the puppet masters are and how they operate. Some of the problems that they are facing are a legacy they left behind when they made their hurried exist out of the country. A weak judiciary, under the influence of the Executive, the pathetic state of the law enforcing agencies, government schools and hospitals, corruption, the power crisis, etc., all existed even in their times. In 1996, we had filed a petition against KESC for failing to provide the service they were supposed to and had warned the crisis the country would face in the coming years. But the government ignored the warnings and failed to address the problem. Since then, industrial, commercial and domestic consumers have been protesting against the power crisis. Our leaders had eight years to prepare for this day and should have been better organized and taken this opportunity to redeem themselves and prove to the citizens of Pakistan and the world that the allegations and the accusations of misdeeds, corruption and mismanagement by past military dictators were wrong and unjustified. The attempt to bring democracy, economic stability, political peace, good governance and the rule of law in the country seem to be in the doldrums. 'Check and check mate' seem to be the order of the day, but the stakes are high, with winner take all. As such, to out maneuver each other, non issues have been thrust onto centre stage, while real issues have been put on the back burners. On the surface, the political parties seem to agree on all issues, but their making and breaking of agreements, etc., tell another story. The only thing they seem to agree upon is to disagree on almost all important issues. The country seems to be adrift without a captain or a rudder and is facing a leadership crisis again and the 'hidden hands' and the puppet masters seem to have an upper hand, while our leaders keep bickering over non issues. The VVIP culture seems to be thriving and flourishing, with ministers rushing around in expensive four wheelers, bristling with armed guards, flouting all laws, with especial privileges for themselves and their families. And nobody is willing to stand up and object, as 'Is Hummam May Sub Nagaih Hein', (we are all naked in the bathroom). In a recent program on the economic state of the country on TV1, Naeemur Rahman, the host, had asked Salma Ahmed, the dynamic and sometimes controversial lady, who had ruffled some VIP feathers in her book, 'Cutting Free', and heads the Pakistan Association of Women Enterprises, if she would recommend her members to establish an industry in Pakistan? Her answer was an emphatic NO. "How can I advise anyone to set up an industry in Pakistan with the power crisis, political instability and the deteriorating law and order situation?" The other participant had been the very visible Ikthiar Baig, whose picture one sees almost daily, cutting cakes and handing out trophies. Ikthiar was very critical of the government policies and complained against the high cost of production, the power shortages, the lack of incentives and subsidies, high taxes, excise duties and sale tax and dwindling profits. However, these problems are due to the past policies of our suited and booted, Harvard educated, viz-kid banker, Shaukat Aziz, who was the darling of the business community when in power and our pillars of business and industry were happy to jump onto the band wagon and go globe trotting with him to 'promote investment' in the country. The credibility and the respect of our judiciary is being totally destroyed and the march of the Talibans in our NWFP and the FATA area, escalating prices, food and power shortages, the highly volatile and erratic stock market, etc., are all an indication of a country in deep crisis and without strong and focused leadership. An article, 'Leadership void seen in Pakistan' by Carlotta Gall of NYT, has highlighted the serious problems facing the country: 'Pakistan is in a leaderless drift four months after elections and Western diplomats and military officials are increasingly worried that no one is really in charge'. Gen. Talat Masood, a political analyst, has stated that the country is suffering from institutional paralysis and that is why the militants are taking advantage. While Gen. Dan McNeill, the outgoing commander of NATO forces in Afghanistan, has described the government as "dysfunctional". According to the Failed State Index, compiled by Fund for Peace, Pakistan has been placed 9th on the list, together with Somalia, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan and Congo. And our own political pundits, including our street wise, Sheikh Rashid, a man of many colors, flavors and portfolios and a staunch supporter of Mr. Musharraf, has predicted that the government will collapse by November, which could lead to the break up of Pakistan. Two decades of poor governance has brought the country to a breaking point and what the people are objecting to is that the leadership seems to be involved in a power game. As such, there is a general sense of betrayal and a feeling that after eight years of military dictatorship, we are being served the same rancid wine, in the same old chipped bottles, with the same old soiled labels. We can not watch in silence and see our country being destroyed and it is the duty of all citizens to stand up and be counted and collectively demand that all differences must be set aside and an honest effort must be made to ensure that this battered Titanic, with its 170 million passengers, is not allowed to sink. E-mail: trust@super.net.pk