We are not living in 'interesting' times (as the Chinese tend to describe situations such as ours), we are living in highly fraught times, beset by imponderables and future fears. Wherever one may cast an eye or an ear, the news is bad. Where is the new era of stability, political and social, and of economic relief, that was supposed to be ushered in by the elections which took place with much fanfare over six months ago? It is nowhere on the far horizon. The USA, benefactor, mentor and master of "nuclear" Pakistan has been true to form. From the days of George Washington downwards it has maintained that when it comes to foreign policy there are no permanent friends and no permanent enemies, there is purely and simply its own national interest. This national interest dictated that the time had come to abandon General Pervez Musharraf and throw Pakistan to the mercy of a party that had reinvented itself following the tragedy that was the elimination of Benazir Bhutto and to a man who had similarly reinvented himself due to fate and opportunity. There was little choice, Asif Zardari is a committed secularist, whilst his partner in coalition, Mian Nawaz Sharif, is a potential ameer-ul-momineen and thus an anathema to the Americans and their War on Terror - terror being 'militant' Islam. The meltdown of the glue that held the two men together since March 9 took a mere six days after the ousting of Musharraf, the entire exercise possibly engineered by the US in its own national interest. Once the common object of hatred had been removed, the ending of the love affair was inevitable, as was known to all, here and abroad - so that solved the problem posed to the US. But even with Musharraf removed, this government continues to maintain that he and his regime are the source and legators of all ills which haunts the country. It and its ruling party have made no efforts to assuage the feelings of inadequacy when it comes to dealing with the USA, or with any superior power (and they are legion). They continue to clamour on issues which have no relevance to the nation but purely to self. It is now that the politicians of Pakistan who stand between the country and democracy. The settling of scores, which continues, is not democracy, as revenge certainly is not. Zardari, since he appeared on the national political scene continues to make enigmatic statements about everything with which he is concerned - in a manner similar to 'nailing jelly to a wall' (as one foreign commentator so aptly put it). His aim from the beginning has been the presidency and now he is well on his way. The blips against him are many. Yes, he has never been convicted, not for lack of evidence but because it never gelled. And now, thanks to some strange timing in the British press which last week was spattered with stories about his mental health, doubts have to be cast upon his fitness to occupy that rather high position of president of Pakistan. Medical certificates of the psychiatric type are probably not difficult to obtain when prompted by acting skills, and the psychiatric conclusions reached were obtained by lawyers with reasons to have the courts postpone Zardari's hearings - which they did successfully. But on the other hand, as commented The Times (London) "they were either exaggerated as a defence, or they portray a man so troubled that it is hard to believe in a full recovery." Zardari is no match for his wife. If he makes it into the presidency, it is highly unlikely that he will trim his own powers. And importantly, Benazir's charisma is missing, as is her surname. Sadly, we will never know if she had learnt any lessons, if she had gained from her two dismal stints in power and from her ten-year break. It gives absolutely no pleasure to write such stuff, but such are the times and the factors on the ground. Even the man put up by Nawaz Sharif and his party for the presidential post is not free from his past. Justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui will forever be linked with the 1997 conspiracy against and the ousting of his former chief justice, and there have been mumbling and grumbling about the probity of a close member of his family. Friend Mushahid Hussain Saheb can but be accused of jumping ship, but he knows as we know that he stands not a chance. Where do we go, to whom do we look? The writer is a freelance columnist E-mail: arfc@cyber.net.pk