As two deadly bomb explosions in the garrison town of Rawalpindi on Sept. 4 signalled the intensifying spread of deadly terrorism in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf's claim to be serious about tackling the extremist challenge appears increasingly untenable.

Political parties will not be able to defeat terrorists in the battle for hearts and minds unless they can demonstrate that they are steadfast champions of the public interest. The data from recent surveys of public opinion underscore this reality. According to these polls, Nawaz Sharif, who has openly challenged the military-based regime, is by far the most popular leader.

In trying to co-opt the PPP (Pakistan People's Party), which could otherwise be a political force of some credibility in the struggle for democracy in Pakistan, General Musharraf is not mobilising political forces for the campaign against terror but is in fact undermining them.

In these circumstances, Benazir Bhutto's approach is highly retrograde. She was given a rare chance to work with other political parties to establish a sound democratic order in Pakistan. Today, a vast majority is no longer willing to put up with the military's proclivity to intervene in politics and governance.

As the mass movement for the re-instatement of the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court has shown, the people are more than ready to fight for their democratic rights. This is the right moment for the political parties to come together and prevail upon the non-democratic components of the power structure to subscribe to a constitutional order.

The Hindu, Madras, India