The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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The sequence of events in Pakistan remains unbroken. In characteristic fashion, the country received news of the finalization of the date (March 17) for the convening of its national and provincial assemblies together with that of two suicide bombings. If the last continues to remind the nation of the challenges ahead, the first should call to mind the odds it has already overcome. The respective leaders of the Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), the two major parties that received the mandate, have admirably sorted out their political differences and have, almost after a month since the general elections were held, lent a concrete shape to the government Pakistan is to have. The final thrust in that direction came from Nawaz Sharif, who changed his mind about supporting the government from outside and relented to being a part of it. With his political counterweight, Asif Ali Zardari of PPP, agreeing to the PML(N)’s major demand for the reinstatement of the supreme court judges, Mr Sharif should find the switch less morally taxing. Besides, Mr Sharif must have realized there is much to be gained from the political coherence if his party were to push forward with its anti-Pervez Musharraf agenda and its ambition of seizing power in the provincial government of Punjab. Mr Sharif has already done substantial groundwork to that effect by rallying the provincial independents around him and provoking a minor rebellion in the president’s party, the PML(Qaid-e-Azam).

The historic confluence of political interests puts the president in a tighter corner. Devoid of the cushion that the entry of his party in parliament may have provided him with, Mr Musharraf runs the risk of not only losing the power to sack governments but also of being thrown out of the door. The fate of the president and the suppression of extremism will form the immediate concerns of the new parliament. That is, once it has decided on the more tricky question of who will be prime minister. Mr Zardari holds the key to this solution, and he could once again show evidence of his commitment to his political legacy by giving up his personal ambition of making it to the hot seat. Both Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari are walking the tightrope. Even the slightest slip will bring the army, which has seemingly distanced itself from politics, back to the forefront, and the indefatigable Mr Musharraf with it.

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