Mr Zardari has vowed to deal with the lawyers' movement. That is the understanding one gathers from his statements appearing in the press. Addressing a gathering of the PPP Parliamentary Party, Mr. Zardari is reported to have said that they need not worry about the forthcoming long march: "You'll see how I deal with the lawyers." Well, first and foremost, one must applaud him for his obvious bravado One only hopes that it is well placed and backed by substance to deal with the burgeoning crisis. To begin with, let's not underestimate the relevance of the lawyers' movement in the contemporary context when the incumbent PPP leadership has systematically sabotaged all efforts directed towards establishing the principle of the rule by law. The guidelines for the same are contained in the Charter of Democracy (CoD) that was signed by the leaders of the PPP Benazir Bhutto and PML-N Nawaz Sharif. It was agreed that any future democratic dispensation, irrespective of who enjoys a majority to form the government, would be run strictly in accordance with the provisions contained in the document. That was not to be as, at the first given instance when the PPP emerged as the lead partner in forming the government at the centre and in Sindh as well as being a player in the provincial set ups in Punjab, Balochistan and the NWFP, its leadership proceeded with alacrity to dismantle any optimism that pundits may have harboured with regard to its commitment to ruling in accordance with the guidelines contained in the CoD. It did not stop there. It concluded written agreements with the PML-N leadership with regard to restoring the judiciary as on November 2 and introducing bills to annul the undemocratic amendments that the former dictator had incorporated in the constitution - commitments that Mr Zardari reiterated when he addressed the joint session of the Parliament. He reneged on all his words. The chicanery went on indefinitely and there were indications that the PPP leadership would live its tenure through amidst a spate of controversies. This was not acceptable to the forces arraigned against the incumbent combine. Having exhausted all avenues for a peaceful settlement of outstanding political differences, what are the options that forces struggling for the advent of the rule of law in the country have at their disposal? The long march is an extreme measure, which would not have been contemplated if the PPP government had shown some inclination towards settling the outstanding issues in a democratic manner. While it never tires of repeating that the people have given it the mandate to rule for five years, it never ever bothers to mention its inherent responsibility in contributing to strengthening the system, thus eliminating the prospect of any future adventurism. It wants to rule for five years, and it wants to rule by scripting its own guidelines most of which are in conflict with the enshrining principles of parliamentary democracy. In other words, the PPP leadership is out to abrogate the basis on account of which people have given it the right to rule. Under the circumstances, what legitimacy it can lay claim on in the act of ruling the country combined with an ambition to continue doing so for the full elected tenure? I am afraid that is the very basis the PPP leadership itself has endeavoured so assiduously to abrogate within a short span since assuming the mantle of governance. The responsibility to be exercised by all political forces, particularly those who are assigned the task of ruling, increases manifold in the face of unparalleled challenges that the state of Pakistan is confronted with, both domestic and international. The unprecedented upsurge of extremism and violence and the utter failure of the government and its numerous agencies in dealing effectively with the menace further perpetuate the crisis. Logically, that should cultivate a desire in the PPP leadership to work sincerely for a multi-dimensional consensus among the political players so that a joint initiative could be launched to meet the challenges. That does not appear even as a distant dot on the horizon. On the contrary, the surge is towards further fragmentation within the political forces, thus setting the stage for plunging into irretrievable chaos and mayhem. Are there options that one can still work around with the intention of avoiding the inevitable? While I am never the one to lose optimism, I also believe that the chances of a peaceful settlement of the cardinal issue have receded into the background and the political forces are now seriously engaged in the act of sabre rattling. On the one hand, we have a combine of forces that is intent on ruling by whims and fancies while, on the other hand, we have a group that represents elements standing for the advent of the rule of law in the country, an independent judiciary being an inescapable ingredient of any such dispensation. The positions have hardened. The arsenal is on display. The stakes are mounting by the day. Does reason still have a chance to get the better of a slump into madness, or would the latter prevail and take along the system with it? Of critical import in a fight enacted for sustainable gains, particularly the right to rule, are the manner and mechanism employed for getting into the saddle. While the PML-N drumbeat is resonating with all the right noises and declarations, the PPP baggage is a weighty drain on its ability to function in accordance with the provisions of the law and the constitution. The reverberations of this inner discord within its ranks have already started filtering into the media. Some leaders of the party who were very close to Benazir Bhutto have come out openly in support of the movement for the rule of law and have added their substantial weight to the demand for the restoration of the judiciary. This is bound to be an unsettling development for the one who sits atop the hill, presiding over this emerging mess. Will the political forces be able to address the ineptitude that has been long on display, and the palpable unwillingness and inability to deal with the crisis? Or, must the country remain a woeful captive at the hands of a game utterly dedicated to self-preservation of one person? Something must take shape before the commencement of the long march to escape the nauseating denouement The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: