It has been generally quiet around the corridors of power. The budget has been presented and a lacklustre discussion has ensued in the National Assembly. There is little chance of any benefit accruing to the common man. On the contrary, his woes are bound to increase amidst a major escalation in the cost of surviving. Mr Zardari is away on another of his frequent jaunts to foreign capitals with a begging bowl which appears emptier than ever before. There never was any faith in the legitimacy and ability of the incumbent leadership to utilise the funds in a transparent manner as has been conclusively demonstrated by the targets not having been met. All we have are promises with little by way of deeds. This is happening when the Pakistan Army is engaged in a major offensive in the North to cleanse the area of the presence of militants. The operation has recently been extended into the restive Waziristan tract risking further militant consequences and retaliation in the heartland of Pakistan. The absolute necessity and urgency of the military operation is being frequently advertised and promoted in the wake of the failure of the Nizam-e-Adl agreement. This is tantamount to an effort to win high moral ground for the assault that, at the outset, was supposed to be quick and clinical. One is not in a position to comment appropriately on its final outcome at this stage, but quick it certainly has not been. As a matter of fact, there are now indications that it may prolong for an indefinite period of time as has been adequately proven by the decision, announced in the middle of the night by Mr Zardari, to establish a permanent cantonment in Swat. This may instigate serious and adverse repercussions for the objective of attaining tenable peace in the restive areas. The lack of reaction from the PML-N is rather deafening. May be, it is awaiting Mian Nawaz Sharif's expected entry into the National Assembly, or the formulation of a credible alternative strategy to confront the multi-faceted challenges that Pakistan faces currently. On all counts, it should be forthcoming without any further delay as PML-N is the shadow government and, therefore, cannot escape the constitutional and moral responsibility of offering meaningful options to policies of the ruling coalition of which it has been consistently, and rightfully, critical. It is in the same context that the news of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) as being sub-judice assumes great importance and relevance. Consequently, the court has barred the passing of benefit to any applicant till a final decision on the much-derided and controversial proclamation comes out. The possible repercussions of any negative judgement are bound to be colossal both in terms of its impact on the future of individuals as well as that of the state of Pakistan. The country has wobbled through four martial laws in the last sixty two years, but the incontrovertible unconstitutionality, illegality and immorality that engineered the enactment of the NRO remains by far the most damning trick inflicted on the fate of Pakistan. Its beneficiaries are occupying seats of power and are in an enviable position to influence the future course the country would take with regard to its positioning in the national, regional and international context, even its ultimate survival. This is a dangerous symptom that needs to be addressed. It is a judicial process and must proceed further on its own merit without any interference from outside quarters. It is a mammoth responsibility that rests on the shoulders of the restored judiciary as the honourable judges owe it to the people of this country to scrap injunctions and proclamations that are not in accord with the constitution and the rule of law. NRO stands out as a major aberration in this context and any delay with regard to a judgement on this outstanding issue would be damaging in numerous respects. My article titled Judicial coup carried by this publication about six months ago contained the outline of the mechanism to comprehensively bury the demons that have haunted us through most of our history as an independent country. In the wake of the ongoing military operation and with the waning of any prospect of it coming to an end soon, there is bound to be growing unrest. The gigantic humanitarian crisis that Pakistan faces today is only one direct outcome of the operation. Its other and equally damaging consequences would emerge with the passage of time that would pose a daunting challenge to the incumbent coalition whose past performance of tackling adverse situations has been simply miserable. As a matter of fact, it is responsible for creating more challenges than it has been able to, or has the ability and earnestness to handle. The expansion and intensification of the theatre of war that we are witnessing today are options that could have been revisited and remodelled to suit the strategic national interests of Pakistan. The necessity of the operation to eliminate militancy that poses a potent and present threat to the country notwithstanding, its operational dynamics could have been engineered to create a more favourable outcome over a shorter period of time. The fact that it appears to be a long-drawn war that may degenerate to becoming a battle of wits at inter- and intra-warring-factions level does not inject any optimism in your veins with regard to its extensive collateral damage. This is bound to be immense which underlines the need to address the challenge now by putting in place a strategically correct and humanly relevant mechanism. There is no indication that the incumbent coalition is conscious of the emerging crisis, or is working on lines to address it. On the contrary, there is a fatalistic nonchalance that grips the power echelons as they remain engrossed in antics geared at petty self-aggrandisement and promotion, taking to the wings at every given as well as absent opportunity. This certainly is not the way to move forward. It would only take us back and plunge us headlong into the midst of a crisis that would be immensely difficult to handle. The problem is here, staring us right in our face. Are we going to look away hoping that it would disappear on its own, or are we going to make the effort to comprehend its enormity and take appropriate measures to address it? The emerging indications are that, like the proverbial ostrich, we are going to bury our faces in sand and let the crisis overtake us and rewrite our history in a manner that would be absolutely tragic The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad. E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com