12 October 1999 will go down in the annals of our political history as one of its darkest days, when Gen Pervez Musharraf staged a coup against a democratically elected government and kept the country under dictatorship for almost nine years. The day did not pass quietly as in preceding years. The leaderships of the two mainstream parties reaffirmed their commitment to strengthen democracy and frustrate the designs of elements trying to destabilize the system. President Asif Zardari told a group of senior journalists that Musharraf wanted the PPP to form a coalition with the PML(Q), and rule in the Centre and all the four provinces in return for letting him continue in the Presidency. It goes without saying that the PPP rejected this absurd quid pro quo and decided to pull together with the PML(N). But Mr Zardari will have to do a lot of explaining when he claims adherence to the Charter of Democracy and other such agreements signed by the two mainstream parties after his backtracking on the judges' issue. The PML(N) meanwhile observed the ninth anniversary of the military takeover as Defence of Democracy Day with Punjab Chief Minister Mian Shahbaz Sharif surprising the audience at the main ceremony at their Raiwind Estate by his recital of Habib Jalib's poetry. But it was Mian Nawaz who raised some pertinent questions in his address. He sought General Musharraf's accountability for the crimes he had committed during his rule. And he had a point when he said that it was time the political leadership tried to find out why democracy could not take root and how military takeovers could be forestalled in future. But when he expressed his dissatisfaction about the in-camera security briefings of Parliament, he should have come up with some suggestions about dealing with the growing violence in the tribal areas, now spreading across the country. Mian Nawaz should keep in mind that without recommending an alternative counterinsurgency plan, he would only be seen as opposing the parliamentary session to keep the PPP from making political capital out of this exercise. There is no doubt that the President has a big credibility gap stemming from not only his broken pledges, but certain of his statements aimed at appeasing the Bush administration that created distrust among coalition partners. It is time he came clean about his government's policy to meet the challenges facing the country. Mian Nawaz must also stop shirking his responsibility and contribute in the effort to devise a comprehensive counterinsurgency strategy.