PAKISTAN Ex-Servicemen Society's decision to participate in the lawyers' long march due on March 9, comes at a time when there is a great deal of pressure on the PPP government to restore the judiciary to its pre-November 3 status. The announcement was made at the 'Defence of Pakistan' Conference organized in Rawalpindi the other day to discuss the escalating tension between Pakistan and India, deteriorating law and order situation in the restive tribal region and deepening political and economic turmoil. There is no disputing the observation made by some retired army officers that the growth of militancy could only be contained through dialogue as military operations had only exacerbated crises in the past. The Conference also demanded of the government to review its domestic and foreign policies and focus on making the country's defence impregnable. The Ex-Servicemen Society, established about two decades ago as a nonprofit organization, aimed at looking after the welfare of the retired soldiers, lately assumed a political role and started stressing the need for strengthening democratic process in the country. They had trained their guns at General Musharraf and have constantly been demanding his trial under Article 6 of the Constitution. But their role in facilitating or acquiescing to the military takeovers in the past not only exposed them to scathing criticism, but they also had to spend much time explaining their position. Most of them were accused of having an axe to grind. The Society's former Chairman made some of his colleagues contest the general elections in 2002, but with no success. It bears repeating that these retired army officers are well within their rights to take part in political activities, but it would be unfair on their part to try to alter the charter of the Ex-Servicemen Society. If they are sincere about serving the cause of democracy they would be well advised to join some political party or form the one of their own rather than fishing in troubled waters. Perhaps what would continue to haunt them is the experience of their senior colleagues.