The starting point has to be Mr. Nawaz Sharif's attempted return to Pakistan in September 2007. Apparently, the masses did not turn up to receive him and he was deported to the Kingdom of the House of Saud. The lack of public agitation and reaction to this deportation was analysed as a proof of the lack of popularity of PML(N) and a poorly managed political party. However, the results of 18 February's elections have gone totally to the contrary. They reflect in Mr. Nawas Sharif a popular leader who can galvanize public in a mere couple of months and a highly organised political party which can contest and almost win an election in the shortest possible time in the most adverse circumstances possible. Something is amiss!
According to the unofficial results the PML(N) received around 20% of the total votes but gained more than 24% seats. The same statistics for PPPP are 32.7% and 32.7%! And, those for PML 24% and 15.4%. Now despite getting less votes than PML, PML(N) has gained more seats! Generally, this is taken as a classical sign of rigging! Is it? In the 2002, elections the PML(Q) got 26.63% of the votes but earned 33.2% of the general seats in the National Assembly. It was assumed by all and sundry that those results were rigged.
There is a theory circulating that the establishment wanted a weak government at the center which could be goaded by it. However, the establishment was afraid of the PPPP's landslide victory especially in the wake of the tragic assassination of late Ms. Benazir Bhutto. The PML could have stopped that landslide but even a fair victory for PML would not have been digested by the masses and could have resulted in wide spread chaos in the aftermath of the elections.
Thenceforth, entered Brigadier (R) Niaz in the picture and the alleged meeting between Mr. Shahbaz Sharif and President Musharraf. The only way to stop the victories of the PPPP and PML both of which were unacceptable for different reasons was to manipulate the elections in favour of PML(N) provided that it was ready to play ball. Apparently, the results it indicate that it was so ready! Nobody could have cried foul as a so called most opposed opposition party was favoured at the expense of the most favoured political party! The real victim was the PPPP.
It certainly is the case that PML(N) has agreed to play the role of the Queen's opposition but is pretending as having as an anti-establishment stance to save face. However, Mr. Zardari has called PML(N)'s bluff. By offering coalition governments at the centre and province Mr. Zardari's is trying to preempt the role set for the PML(N) by the establishment.
The only option for the PML(N) will be to create differences with the PPPP on one issue and part ways. The most likely issue will be the restoration of the former Chief Justice Ifitkh(ar Ch.
(The article was written in March 2008 but not published to give the PML(N) the benefit of doubt)