We just got rid of a military dictator, and thought the country would soon be back on its path to genuine democracy, moving ahead with a quick legislative and administrative agenda for undoing all the wrongs done to the country's constitution, judiciary and institutional integrity during the post-October12, 1999 Musharraf era. The success of the post-February 18 election process was however predicated on the ability of the newly elected leadership to meet its challenges in keeping with the verdict given by the people so overwhelming to the country's two mainstream parities, the PPP and the PML-N. They were also obliged to deliver on their mutual commitments under the Charter of Democracy signed by their respective leaders in London on May 15, 2006. The two parties got together to forge a "coalition" government with one immediate common agenda: reinstatement of the illegally removed judges of the superior courts within thirty days as pledged by them in the Murree Declaration of March 9, 2008. Their government of national unity however could not function as an independent government. General Musharraf's political wizardries kept the new dispensation besieged by the same faces, the same policies and the same issues. He also kept claiming all the credit for the return of what he called the "real democracy" in Pakistan. He was perhaps right. He first destroyed the "real democracy" in Pakistan through his October 12, 1999 military coup, and then played havoc with the country's constitution and institutions including the judiciary. He rightly credited himself for bringing the country full circle back to where he took it over. We were indeed back to "real democracy" from where he hijacked the country through his engineered "hijacking drama" almost nine years ago. But we cannot forget what he has done to our country in these nine years. He resorted to the "use of force and unconstitutional means" to overthrow an elected prime minister in October 1999, and then secured an engineered "validation" of his acts of commission through a controversial constitutional amendment. Since March last year, General Musharraf has shown no legal or moral restraint in his lust for power. He tried to illegally dismiss the Chief Justice of Pakistan through a malafide "presidential reference" only to clear the ground for his yet another re-election bid. His ensuing actions not only undermined the independence of the judiciary but also amounted to an "open war" against the media and civil society. The country was embroiled in a political maelstrom through state vandalism and hooliganism. The May 12 carnage in Karachi was a "reality show" seen by all live on TV channels. He then went ahead with his highly controversial "re-election" on October 6 while still in uniform as army chief from the outgoing assemblies. He circumvented the application of Articles 41 and 63 of the constitution to his otherwise ineligible candidature. As if this was not enough, General Musharraf shocked the world through his November 3 extra-constitutional "emergency" in which he, as army chief, not only suspended the country's constitution but also illegally removed those judges of the superior courts who refused to take fresh oath under his PCO. It was an undeclared martial law, and an assault in one stroke on the constitution, the judiciary, the media and the fundamental rights of the people. On December 15, he lifted the emergency but restored nothing. This year's February 18 election was in essence a vote of no-confidence against General Musharraf. The people gave him the final democratic call: Go Musharraf Go. But he did not listen to them. In the absence of a vote of confidence from the new assemblies, his presidency was marred by serious questions of legitimacy and moral authority. Pakistan and its people did not deserve this illegality at the level of their head of state. Eventually, the coalition partners, the PPP and the PML-N had to serve him with a "quit or else..." notice. They were convinced that Musharraf and Pakistan could not co-exist any longer. The "war of one against all" had to be brought to an end. This conclusion finally led the ruling coalition partners to invoke Article 47 of the constitution. Amid impending impeachment, General Musharraf finally quit on August 18. Musharraf did not spare the nation of his parting kick. In his last televised address, he spoke for more than an hour remorselessly defending himself and claiming that he had done nothing wrong and was not afraid of impeachment. He was not even ashamed of "recounting" what he had brought upon the country in his nine-year rule. He said he had built a strong economic base in Pakistan and had given the country a new identity in the comity of nations. There could not be a bigger joke. Pakistan that he has left behind is a country which is no better than a "stone age" state with no constitution or the rule of law and where there was no independent judiciary and which has no place in the contemporary comity of civilised nations. Government and politics, as the world knows them, are today alien to Pakistan which is an epitome of abysmal political turmoil and socio-economic chaos. Musharraf destroyed Pakistan's rationale as an independent state, and indeed gave it a new identity and a new culture altogether. Pakistan today is high on the global radar screen as "the hotbed" of "religious extremism" and "obscurantism" and as a country afflicted with a culture of militancy and violence. Today, regretfully, Pakistan's name raises instant fear and concern among the nations of the world. We figure prominently in the world's top lists of most corrupt, most violent and most dangerous nations on earth. Indeed, the dubious credit for all these unenviable distinctions goes to General Musharraf. And yet he claims he has done no wrong. The emptiness of Musharraf's claims of building Pakistan's economy is evident in common man's growing daily hardships as a result of chronic food and power shortages, poor governance and rampant corruption. The plunderers and the looters, murderer and the killers could not have a safer haven anywhere else in the world. We now provide indemnity as a matter of rule to powerful usurpers of the constitution and highly-placed elite loan-defaulters and squanderers of national exchequer. Thanks to Musharraf, today, we are no longer an independent state. Our decisions are taken outside the country. We have made ourselves subservient to foreign powers. Our leaders are no longer justifying the trust the people have been reposing in them. The deal that made it possible for the February elections to take place and finally to pave the way for General Musharraf's ouster was also brokered from outside. Even the post-election political scene in Pakistan is being managed from foreign soils. As the new chapter in our political history opens, we may be charting new standards of "neo-colonialism." John Negroponte, Richard Boucher and Michael Mullen have become household words in Pakistan. Our status today is no better than Puerto Rico, a US colony in the Caribbean ruled with "internal self-government" in association with the US. This certainly is not what the Quaid had envisioned this country to be when he struggled for a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Subcontinent. Musharraf is gone but his legacy lasts. His politician successors are now faced with a challenge to free the country of this woeful legacy. But the way they have started within a week after Musharraf's ouster inspires no confidence among the people. The five-month old "grand coalition" has collapsed. The judges' issue on which was predicated the independence of judiciary and the future of the rule of law in our country ran into a glitch when Asif Zardari disowned his agreements with Nawaz Sharif. He surprised the people of Pakistan and the world at large when he said his "agreements" with Nawaz Sharif were after all not the "words of Holy Quran or Hadith." He is entitled to have his own views on the question of reinstating the judges but by reneging on his commitments under a solemn written agreement, he raises alarm bells in world corridors over his credibility as a statesman. No one, not even the US would trust any one who does not stand by his word, oral or written. Our own religion commands the qualities of "Sadiq and Ameen" when it comes to choosing a leader. Zardari had an opportunity of his life to be a man of destiny in Pakistan's history. He rescued the country of Musharraf. One wished he had not damaged his credibility asset. He still could make up for this "self-denial" by going back to Nawaz Sharif and regain his confidence by implementing the August 7 Islamabad Agreement. Both the PPP and the PML-N must then work together to restore Pakistan's political and economic stability, and regain its lost sovereignty and dignity as an independent state. The writer is a former foreign secretary and senior political analyst