Pakistan's current options were concisely evaluated in a recent blog on the BBC website. The writer listed the possible outcomes of the crisis in reverse order of desirability.
1. Talibanization: worst case scenario; 2. Benazir Bhutto: worse case scenario; 3. Nawaz Sharif: very, very, bad case scenario; 4. Other political leaders: very bad case scenario; 5. General Pervez Musharraf: bad case scenario; 6. Power to the people: best case scenario.
Nobody doubts that Talibanization - the seizure of power by radical Islamist militants who would turn Pakistan into a giant replica of 1990s Afghanistan - would be the worst.
It would be dreadful for the long-suffering people of Pakistan, and it would trigger an extremely dangerous international crisis as U.S., Indian and possibly Iranian forces launched rapid-reaction attacks aimed at keeping Pakistan's nuclear weapons out of the hands of the crazies.
Fortunately, it is a very low-probability outcome.
Ranking another Bhutto prime ministership as the next-worst outcome is more debatable, but perhaps the writer was thinking about the corruption that marred both of her previous terms in office (and provided the pretext for her removal).
Even if the recent amnesty on eight corruption charges facing her and her husband (for allegedly taking tens of millions in kickbacks) is upheld by the tame new supreme court appointed by Musharraf, Bhutto still faces criminal investigations into money-laundering in Switzerland and Spain.
Or maybe what troubled our intrepid guide to contemporary Pakistani politics was the fact that Bhutto's dramatic return from years of self-exile was stage-managed by the U.S. Washington saw that the general, a usually obedient ally in its "war on terror,' was losing his grip on power, and calculated that an alliance with Bhutto could save him.
The negotiations between Musharraf and Bhutto, which envisaged the former as a civilian president and the latter as prime minister, lasted for many months, but Washington was never able to extract two key commitments from the general.
One was that he would relinquish command of the army. The other was that he would give up the president's constitutionally entrenched power to dismiss the prime minister.
So Bhutto came home without a deal, but the current confrontation between her and the general is largely shadow-boxing. The made-in-America deal could still be sealed, and that enrages lots of Pakistanis.
Then there is Nawaz Sharif, head of the other large opposition party and also twice removed from the prime ministership, most recently by Musharraf himself in 1999.
He also tried to come home from exile last month, but since he was not a potential collaborator, Musharraf had him expelled again. The odour of corruption hangs as heavily about Sharif as it does around Bhutto.
We can pass quickly over "other political leaders,' and likewise over the general himself, who is not going to be running Pakistan much longer unless he can make a deal with someone that gives his regime some democratic legitimacy. That is why, having declared emergency rule on November 3, he still promises that there will be parliamentary elections.
Even the army is starting to doubt that he can stay in office much longer without some kind of democratic approval.
Which brings us to the last, best case: power to the people. I don't know what the writer really means by that, so let me offer my own interpretation.
What started this crisis was the revolt of the lawyers against Musharraf's interference with the supreme court's independence.
What precipitated the state of emergency was his fear that the court would rule his own "re-election' as president invalid because he had not resigned as army chief of staff.
This confrontation is really about the rule of law, and that is where Pakistan's salvation lies.
Democracy without the rule of law is a farce. With the rule of law, it can even withstand politicians as corrupt as Bhutto and Sharif and generals as opportunistic as Musharraf.
Pakistan's politics have been bitterly disappointing for most of its history because there was no determination to uphold the primacy of the law, but now its judges and lawyers are finally taking their role seriously. This crisis could still end well.
Gwynne Dyer is a London-based independent journalist whose articles are published in 45 countries.