A couple of statements emanating from the person of Mr Zardari have sent me thinking seriously about the woeful credentials of the leadership that fate has bestowed upon us. The first of the bloomers was about the journalists being the 'biggest terrorists' while the other was a venomous diatribe against the Sharif brothers. This happened on the same day when Mr Zardari had despatched his un-elected Czar, Mr Rehman Malik, to Jati Umra in a desperate bid to convince the PML-N Quaid to stay away from the lawyers' long march. Ostensibly, the trip failed as Mian Nawaz Sharif reiterated his firm resolve the next day to fully participate in the proposed long march and to ensure its success. He also appealed to other political parties and the civil society to join the movement for the restoration of the judiciary and the promulgation of the rule of law in the country, which should have been the priority considerations of any democratic government. The frustration that must be getting the better of the PPP leadership has its roots in the decision of the PML-N to proceed unilaterally in presenting its bill with regard to the annulment of the 17th amendment in the constitution before the Parliament. I believe it to be an extremely belated decision as the PPP leader had, for long, left no ambiguity that there was not even a shred of genuineness in his parroted statements with regard to bringing about the desired changes in the constitution to empower the Parliament and the institutions in the country including the judiciary. The statements were only meant to create a false front to camouflage his hidden undemocratic intentions. In spite of innumerable instances of the PPP leader reneging on his commitments, both spoken and signed, the PML-N continued to act as his 'democratic front' so much so that it had started hurting its own image among the electorate. Stretched this far, the PML-N leadership was left with no option but to go it alone in demonstrating its sincerity with the causes of democracy, the judiciary and the empowerment of the institutions in the country. This was a bit much for the PPP leader to digest and the venom came out immediately not only against the PML-N Quaid, but also against the media whose only crime was that it continued to report the happenings in the country impartially and transparently and was not willing to toe the line of deceit and falsehood which is being perpetrated in the name of 'consensus'. The story of the incumbent leadership of the PPP is like the proverbial albatross that is hung around the ancient mariner's neck: And every tongue, through utter drought/Was withered at the root/We could not speak, no more than if/We had been choked with soot/Ah Well a-day What evil looks/Had I from old and young/Instead of the cross, the Albatross/About my neck was hung. Read National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) for the albatross and one would begin to understand how deeply and inextricably is the PPP leadership stuck in its own devilish machinations It had the NRO drafted in collusion with the former dictator against whom it was apparently waging a fight for the onset of democracy in the country. But, in reality, the PPP leadership and the former dictator were mortgaging the country to virtual slavery at the hands of those who were having their cases written off not because they were false, but because they were being traded off for pledging loyalty to continuing with dictatorship sans uniform. Notwithstanding the happenings since and the manner of Mr Zardari's ascendance to the throne, it is the very same NRO that is hanging around his neck. After all, you can play your tricks only for a certain period of time. You cannot go on befooling the entire electorate. People are far too intelligent to become perpetual victims of this game plan that would lead to nothing but total national ruination: Water, water every where/And all the boards did shrink/Water, water, every where/Not any drop to drink. I have written endlessly on the ill-fated NRO not because there is nothing else that consumes my imagination. In fact, there is so much happening around that one would like to comment on. There is the promise of 'change' in the United States in the person of one Mr Barack (Hussein) Obama - a 'change' that is eight years over-due Would he be able to bring it about? The world would soon begin to discover that. If Obama remains true to his electoral promise, that would augur well for the world. But, if he proves to be a plagiarist and the one for words that don't mean any thing, we are headed for disaster. The choice before the people of Pakistan is also clear. They could either play along with the Machiavellian spread and become the victims of this sinister plan that is only geared to augment the myopic cause of the ruling oligarchy, or take to resisting the inexorable surge towards compromising national interest and honour by the one who has accidentally landed up with the job of presiding over the fate of this country. In the former case, the country is destined to head towards fragmentation, as violent forces of resistance would gather increasing strength on account of the self-serving policies of the ruling elite. If that were not the desired option, people are left with no choice but to extend total and irrevocable support to those forces that are fighting for the empowerment of the institutions and the promulgation of the rule of law. There is no other option and the urgency of making a choice was never more daunting than now. The decision of the PML-N and, hopefully, other democratic forces and the civil society, to participate in the long march to bring down the surviving edifice of dictatorship is an encouraging starting point. There are no options. The only road is the road to democracy and the rule of law. If that were not achieved, we would be consigned to perpetual slavery and be buried under the weight of the albatross. The writer is an independent political analyst based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com