SPEAKING about his party’s latest term in power, President Asif Ali Zardari has offered the new government considerable food for thought. He has made three important points which will be central to the performance of Mian Nawaz Sharif’s government, both as popular politics goes and also in the context of Mr Sharif’s relationship with the ‘establishment’. In the president’s latest interview on Sunday, the tackling of militants and handling of the Gen Musharraf case are two themes that should be of immediate significance to the PML-N. Mr Zardari also appeared to back the PML-N’s effort to include the nationalists in Balochistan in running that restive province where politicians have always had to balance their act to not incur the displeasure of the security set-up: “…more progress could have been made [during the PPP’s term] had the Baloch people participated proactively in the development of their province”. Put differently, Mr Sharif’s ability to create conditions where the Baloch can assert themselves politically will be tested.

The PML-N has so far remained tight-lipped on Gen Musharraf, even though in one of his post-victory statements Mr Sharif did say he had forgiven all as he prepared to start afresh. If he is ready to do as he says, he will need to convince supporters such as his ally Mahmood Khan Achakzai who remarked during the speaker’s election yesterday that the National Assembly was ‘overcrowded’ with Gen Musharraf’s remnants. The drones are as impossible to wish away; their downing, the president has indicated, not without serious repercussions. The PML-N would want to establish its credentials by first attending to matters such as the economy and the energy sector. In time, however, it will have to face up to the more sensitive affairs in today’s Pakistan that will have a profound impact on politics in relation to the establishment. Mr Zardari has had a go. Now it is up to Mr Sharif to get the balance right.

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