Shortly after the abrupt dismissal of Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, The Post published a letter from Irfan Husain, minister of information for the Embassy of Pakistan, stating that: "the new government has categorically, clearly and unequivocally promised elections on Oct. 24."

Free and fair elections are only part of the concern; it is the democratic process that is again at stake in Pakistan. It's time the military let go of its role as protective and sometimes interfering elder brother. The talent is there, and it must have time to develop. Pakistan's Times {Aug. 10} said it well: "Democracies are not born in all their splendor. They strive for it. It takes time. Time for the judiciary to gain the confidence -- and the stubborn arrogance -- to stand up to government; time for the media to find a balance between its responsibilities and its freedoms. Democracy is not just an elected assembly, it is made up of a whole host of interlinking institutions, intuitions and perceptions, all acting as checks and balances on the exercise of power." Democracy cannot be plucked from the air; it only comes with experience and with mistakes.

The military with its considerable resources, experience and acumen can best strengthen the democratic process by taking on the most difficult of tasks: supporting the appropriate ministries in increasing the literacy rate and life expectancy for both women and men. A literate, informed and healthy people will improve the democratic process, and the military will have made a truly major contribution toward democracy. JANICE J. BURNS Washington

The recent dismissal of Benazir Bhutto's government by Pakistan's president {front page, Aug. 7}, possibly with support from Pakistan's military, pointed up to fragility of democracy and the strength of the military in that country. Unfortunately, this state of affairs is one of the unforeseen ill-effects of our government's policy of using Pakistan's military as a conduit for the arms supplied to Afghan rebels. For more than a decade, massive arms shipments have flown through Pakistan to the rebels, and, in the process, we may have created a monster in Pakistan.

The Bush administration should make it clear to the interim government in Pakistan that if free and fair elections -- with an equal chance for all parties including Mrs. Bhutto's to participate -- are not held in October as promised, the aid to Pakistan will be cut off. With the volatile situation in the Persian Gulf, the last thing we need in the Islamic arc is a military government that runs amok and pursues its own agenda at our expense.

In any case, I hope that the post-Afghanistan review of our foreign policy options in South Asia includes a drastic cut of military aid to Pakistan and a corresponding increase in development aid. Such a policy would strengthen Pakistan's democratic institutions, while reducing the influence of its military. RAMESH P. RAVELLA Manassas