A nation as divided as ours badly deserves a break from the past. Tragically, it is our past that is not ready to show us any mercy. Perhaps, of all demons of the past, the most destabilising ones are our experiments with faith and our romances with dictatorship. In a country primarily conceived to serve as a laboratory of faith, the former was inevitable.
However, it is a pity that even in this age of democratisation, the legacy of past dictatorial rules refuses to die.
Today, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and his trial are unquestionably the most destabilising factors after Ziaul Haq's gifts. There is no denying that Musharraf ruled this country long enough to permanently influence a host of opinion-makers.
In government service too, there is something Pavlovian about staying in power for long and being the sole authority to fire or promote people. The people serving under such a ruler often end up being conditioned to confuse his desires with the national interest.
And don't forget an entire generation came of age during the said general's time in office. To them, he is some sort of messiah.
The fact that he is the only surviving dictator in this country, has an active file and was caught practically red-handed subverting the Constitution for the second time with enough evidence in existence to earn him a lifelong sentence, does not matter to them. You can challenge and try to change well considered views but not blind faith.
Then this argument has weight. If everyone's sins can be forgiven, why should he be an exception?
For better or for worse, he has been an inextricable part of our history that cannot be erased from existence.
So should he be the test case of Article 6 in this volatile situation?
Is it even possible to prosecute him without the entire episode being viewed as persecution by his supporters?
Frankly, I couldn't care less. He is an out-of-job dictator, a relic of the past and someone whose exile from power is a bigger punishment than any that the on going trial can come up with.
The trouble, however, is that those who claim to be his victims are in far greater number.
He will be viewed by many as no less a malefactor than the previous dictators one of whom hanged an elected premier and the others' policies led to the fall of East Pakistan.
And in my view, he was offered more than one chance to escape from the ordeal he has put himself and his supporters through.
When he resigned from the office of the president, he was given an honourable discharge with a guard of honour, a security detail and the right to leave the country.
When he was about to return, every well-wisher of his, except obviously the party toadies, opposed his decision. And when he came back, he had plenty of time to leave again before the beginning of the trial.
Rumour has it that he was offered the chance to leave the country by some of the most powerful people here and he turned it down.
When you talk of giving him a reprieve, you have to understand that he has two terrible enemies — the coterie of sycophants he surrounded himself with after retirement and his own person.
His bull-headed refusal to see himself for what he is now, a beleaguered ex-dictator with insurmountable baggage, is only compounded by the bad advice of his associates.
He, too, badly needs closure and the more attention his supporters draw to his case, the closer he gets to the noose.
The only way out for him is a Frost-Nixon like apology, followed by his submission to the law.
If this story is kept unattractive and away from the headlines, the law of buoyancy dictates that he will find a way out sooner than you think.
The Express Tribune