A senator, who was also Pervez Musharraf's close legal adviser, in a recent conversation enlightened me with his views about our society and the political system which suited our country. His starting point was that our people did not deserve democracy or, as he put it, democracy did not suit the genius of our people. He stressed that in view of our cultural weaknesses, history, lack of experience and absence of interest, we were simply incapable of running a democratic system in the country. The obvious conclusion that one could draw was that, in his opinion, our people were condemned to live under military or civilian dictatorships. He also cited cases of the violation of law both within the country and abroad to suggest that the rule of law was more a figment of the imagination than a reality. His second equally startling assertion, therefore, was that the rule of law was not the need of the common man in Pakistan. In short, he seemed to hold the view that the status quo, howsoever retrogressive, repulsive and undesirable it may be, was its own justification. I was shocked to hear these views. However, coming from a supporter of Pervez Musharraf who virtually destroyed the institution of judiciary and undermined the rule of law and the sanctity of the constitution, they were not entirely surprising. The arguments that this legal expert advanced reminded me of the perennial struggle between the forces of ignorance and backwardness, on the one hand, and the forces of enlightenment and progress, on the other. The forces of ignorance and backwardness have historically relied on the status quo inherited from the past to block the path of enlightenment and progress. The infidels of Makkah Al-Mukarramah also, when they were called upon by the Prophet (Peace be upon him) to accept the message of Islam, retorted that they could not give up idolatry because it was based on the practices inherited by them from their ancestors. The evolution of mankind and the progress of human civilisation show that, despite occasional setbacks, the forces of enlightenment and progress ultimately triumph over the advocates of ignorance and retrogression. The secret of human progress lies in the fact that some people of vision and courage at different stages of history challenged and defeated the status quo based on ignorance and oppression and thereby changed the course of history. It is for this reason that the modern human society, generally speaking, is organised on more progressive lines than the situation that prevailed during the dark and medieval ages. Two fundamental characteristics distinguish the modern times from the earlier eras. The first is the general acceptance of the rule of law as the foundation stone for the organisation of the society and the state. In fact, the human society progressed from the uncivilised state to the civilised status when the law of the jungle in which might prevailed over right, gave way to the rule of law enjoining both the equality before law and the supremacy of law. One cannot even think of justice, which is the raison d'etre of the state, in the absence of the rule of law. Justice is the first and the foremost requirement of a citizen. It is not without reason that Islamic jurisprudence places the utmost importance on the rule of law and the history of the Muslims offers numerous examples of the powerful and the rich submitting before the majesty of the law. The rule of law is also an essential condition for economic progress which requires peace and order as well as respect for contractual obligations. There is no doubt that many countries and societies, ours being one of them, still fall short of the ideal of the rule of law. But that does not detract from the desirability of this ideal. In fact, it should be treated as a call for redoubling our efforts individually and collectively to establish and uphold the rule of law. Only those who lack both the courage to fight the status quo and the vision to look ahead would question its desirability. The daily stories appearing in the press about the violations of law and the oppression of the weak by the powerful in our society make it incumbent on all of us to work for the establishment of the rule of law and the provision of justice, especially to the weak and the poor. An independent judiciary manned by judges of high integrity is a sine qua non for the establishment of the rule of law and the provision of justice. Looked at from this point of view, Pervez Musharraf caused a grievous injury to Pakistan's body politic through his full-blooded assault on the institution of the judiciary culminating in the wholesale dismissal of the judges of the Supreme Court and High Courts on November 3, 2007 to prolong his stay in power. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges who opposed Pervez Musharraf's unconstitutional steps of November 3, 2007 deserve the nation's appreciation for having stood up to a military dictator for the first time in Pakistan's history. Their restoration to their rightful offices is the only way to send a clear message that the nation henceforth will not countenance blatant violations of the constitution. It is a pity that the PPP-led government at the centre has so far failed to do so. The second distinguishing feature of the modern world is the general acceptance of democracy defined as the government of the people, by the people and for the people as the best form of government. The essence of democracy lies in the rule by the people through their representatives chosen through fair and transparent elections. Since the elected government represents the sovereignty of the people, both the civilian bureaucracy and the military establishment must be subordinated to it. It is true that we have not so far succeeded in stabilising the democratic institutions in the country due to repeated military takeovers. But the people of Pakistan can't be blamed for these acts of high treason of which some ambitious and unscrupulous generals have been guilty. The right thing for our opinion makers is not to argue that democracy does not suit the genius of the people of Pakistan but to call for the punishment of those who have been guilty of high treason. In fact, democracy runs in the very blood of the people of Pakistan. After all, Pakistan came into existence through the free exercise of the right to vote by its people. Those who are opposed to unadulterated democracy in the country are not only trying to swim against the current of history but also insulting the people of Pakistan. Actually their arguments are nothing but a cleverly disguised attempt to support military takeovers and preserve the status quo based on the oppression and the exploitation of the people of Pakistan by the country's ruling elite. However, as the results of the last general elections show the people of Pakistan have awakened. The drubbing that Pervez Musharraf's party got in the elections last year should be an eye opener for the present governments at the centre and in the provinces. The message from the people was loud and clear: they not only demanded a change of Musharraf's flawed internal and external policies but also drove home the point that the parties that did not perform after being voted into power would be booted out at the next general elections. The present PPP-led government at the centre, which has been delaying the repeal of the 17th amendment on one pretext or the other despite a national consensus on the subject, has reneged on its commitment to restore the judges of the superior judiciary and has so far failed to improve the lot of the common man, should beware lest it should face the same results as befell the king's party of Musharraf's days. The writer is a retired ambassador E-mail: javid.husain@gmail.com