Like it happens in all dictatorships, the exit is swift, in fact sudden, without fanfare. It seems the same is destined to be Musharraf's fate also which is exemplified by the surge of mounting pressure on the military ruler to move out. Even his servile apologists who have been trumpeting the hollow threat of the imposition of martial law in case the former commander was forced out, are now reconciled with his ultimate departure much to their humiliating frustration. It is only a matter of days before the nation would be finally purged of the presence of a person who has lorded over the virtual destruction of this country for almost nine years. The current spate of pressure was initiated by Asif Zardari who called Musharraf a "relic of the past." Later, Mian Nawaz Sharif claimed that Asif Zardari had agreed to the former commander's exit. He went a critical step further when, addressing a gathering in Lahore, he demanded that Musharraf should be tried for treason for having violated the constitution. He said: "I forgive Musharraf for all he did to me, my family, my old father. I forgive him for arresting and chaining me for seven hours in an aircraft and keeping me in a dungeon for fourteen months, but the nation cannot spare a person who sold his countrymen to foreign powers in exchange for dollars, killed innocent children in the Lal Masjid operation, damaged the future of the country's youth and insulted the Supreme Court chief justice and the judges". Damning charges, indeed In yet another eventful development, Asif Zardari has said that he believed in dialogue, but he would not "live with the status quo." This statement was preceded by an unscheduled meeting between General Musharraf and the Chief of Army Staff General Kayani at the Army House on May 28 that lasted for over three hours and the reported strategic transfer of the army commander in the triple one brigade in Rawalpindi as well as the change of the guard unit of General Musharraf. These could be routine matters as the ISPR would have us believe, but coming in the midst of a barrage of anti-Musharraf tirade, their meaning was not lost on pundits who have been forecasting the general's fall for long. As is so patently evident to all, the country could ill-afford his continued presence in the Army House that he has been illegally occupying ever since having quit the office of the COAS. Aitzaz Ahsan, President of the Supreme Court Bar Association and the leader of the lawyers' heroic struggle for the restoration of the judiciary, has demanded the immediate resignation of General Musharraf failing which he has threatened to divert the direction of the proposed long march on June 10 towards the Army House. He has also strongly opposed a safe exit for General Musharraf. In simultaneous moves, there have been demands for General Musharraf's name to be put on the Exit Control List (ECL). The former commander's close confidant, Tariq Aziz, is also reported to have carried a message from Asif Zardari asking the general to resign by June 10 - the day the lawyers' long march is to commence. General Aslam Beg has gone so far as to claim that Musharraf is under "protective custody" and has been advised to move out of the Army House. The last week has also seen the unprecedented crash in the country's stock markets and the steep drop in the value of Pak rupee which now stands at Rs. 70 to a US dollar as against Rs. 60 a few days ago. Without fail, these are grievous but unmistakable symptoms of the malaise the country would continue to suffer from as long as General Musharraf insists on prolonging his unconstitutional rule. Having staged an unwarranted coup to oust a democratically elected government more than eight eventful years ago, General Musharraf has continued to latch on to power by exercising all illegal and unconstitutional moves that he could engineer. Having failed abominably in realising his original seven-item agenda, he presided over a fraudulent election to smoothen the victory of a "party" that was pieced together by the political wing of the Inter Services Intelligence Agency (ISI). He went on to pick a coterie of the most corrupt politicians, under the sickly leadership of the Chaudhry clan, to lead it in realising the ascendancy-to-perpetuity of a general in uniform. The five-year period stands out because of a disgracefully irrelevant parliament as all decisions were taken in the Camp Office. The country was delivered in the lap of the US for two pence and its sovereignty irretrievably compromised. The survival of the general was deceptively equated with that of the country and his role, in cahoots with the United States and its allies in the so-called war against terror, delivered a telling blow to the burgeoning aspirations of a whole nation that yearned for a democratic polity. Pakistan was transformed into a living hell, as it became a cyclic victim of suicide attacks in retaliation for unwarranted assaults on its own people. Among thousands of the victims of this perennial violence was Benazir Bhutto, the leader of Pakistan People's Party. The decision to "suspend" the chief justice upset the applecart and things could never revert to the comfortable old days. After that, it was always an uphill battle for the besieged general. When a restored judiciary was about to pass judgement on crucially important issues including General Musharraf's eligibility to contest the election to be president, it was summarily sent packing to plunge the nation into unprecedented chaos. A second martial law was promulgated with large-scale restrictions imposed on the freedom of individuals and the media. As the nation went into another election under mounting international pressure, the gross proclamations to having a general-in-uniform elected twenty times over by the battery of his cronies and sycophants are still ringing hoarse in our ears. Much to their consternation, the nation gave a historic verdict in favour of the democratic forces of the country and parties allied with the general were decisively routed. The general should have gone immediately but, probably, was destined to go in a different manner - with the last vestige of self-respect shorn from his person. Today, he stands in the court of the people, manoeuvring a safe exit which, if arranged, would not only be a grave travesty of justice, but would also keep the doors open for future military adventurists to play with the destiny of the country. History continues to repeat itself. Only we refuse to learn E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com