The inevitable has occurred, and Asif Ali Zardari has been duly elected President of Pakistan for the next five years. Towards the end of his term, it will be his responsibility to hold elections, if they are held on time, not prematurely. The new assemblies will elect the new president, yet Zardari will at this point be ready for the sole consecutive re-election that the constitution allows. The most important thing about President Zardari will remain what was most important about his predecessor, who was also a former COAS, an office he only gave up so that he could secure a second term, which was abridged so much. It was that office that gave him so much importance, and when he gave it up, he was no more firmly rooted in Pakistan's political environment. Thus he was dispensable, as no longer contributing enough in the War On Terror. Now President Zardari has to prove his efficacy in the War, though there will be many in Washington who will vouch for him, or else he will face a large number of contenders willing to do the American bidding in exchange for being allowed a turn at power. The first proof of his efficacy has been the stepping up of the attacks from Afghanistan on Pakistani soil, not just air attacks by drones, but the first-ever attack by American troops, but destined not to be the last. The second proof of his efficacy has been his resolute resistance to the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice. It was necessary to restore all the judges willing, through a fresh oath meant not so much for them, as Chief Justice Chaudhry, who was to accept a seniority leaving Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar with no challenge to his chief justiceship. Even though the PML-N walked out of the ruling coalition on this point, and made it more or less clear that it expected the PPP to formally leave the Punjab coalition after its informal moves in this direction, Zardari remained committed to keeping Chaudhry out of the chief justiceship. But why keep Chaudhry out? All those cases against Musharraf were no longer relevant, because they affect his presidency, which has gone already, and should not have been given a hearing on that ground alone, assuming they surmount the difficulty of having been already decided. Was it the missing persons case, which threatened to expose the American practice of rendition (the keeping of prisoners in another country, not in the USA itself), and to which the Dr Afia case was likely to be added? Or was it the NRO? Under it Zardari has not only won his freedom, but is being returned all the money that was taken into custody when those cases were started, as well as a lot of money which was allegedly paid to the couple as bribes. It is not easy to perceive an American interest in the NRO, except for its relevance to the fortunes of the Bhutto family (which now includes Asif). If the NRO falls apart, then Zardari's presidency might be at stake. With a former chief justice (Saleemuzzaman Siddiqui) the only possible beneficiary (though a fresh election should be ordered, Siddiqui could theoretically be declared elected), anything could happen, if the judiciary thinks it can interfere with the work of the executive, and get away with it. But the foreign concern at the missing persons case, especially since the practice of rendition has already received widespread coverage in the American media itself, cannot be explained except as a foreign desire to protect the heads of these agencies from appearing in court, which is essentially a domestic concern, and since Zardari has become president despite these agencies' efforts, and even though they have been placed under the interior division, it is rather unlikely that he will try to save their heads any embarrassment, as he has done. The Dr Afia case cropped up too late to be a decisive factor, and though it served to stir the public, that public has been too jaded to make the case a real cause clbre. So it probably did not play any role in the presidential stakes. So why did Zardari submit to the diktat which prevented Chief Justice Chaudhry from returning to office? He has himself said that he has submitted, because his public reference to the forces that made Musharraf resign as the forces preventing the restoration of the judges, shows that Iftikhar is the problem, not so much at home, as abroad. The decision must be Iftikhar Chaudhry's as to whether he wishes to reveal why he was so vigorously opposed, and Pervez Musharraf also made no indication why he exerted so much pressure for his removal, to the extent of sacrificing himself. Actually, Musharraf carried out no act of self-sacrifice by resigning. He should have left office as soon as the results of the February polls were in. He just gained seven months for himself, and perhaps he counts that well worth it. The real test for President Asif Zardari would be the restoration of parliamentary sovereignty. The PPP has long prepared a comprehensive package of amendments to the constitution, which it made public when it proposed to move this package to restore the judges. Has Asif Zardari assumed the presidency with all of that history behind it, and when it has the full breadth of powers, only in order to throw away those powers? The power which causes the most tremors is that of dissolution of the National Assembly, which is an addition to the constitution that dates back to Zia, and which was added on the insistence of the military, as the solution to the perennial problem of the civilian politicians calling in the military to sort out their problems. If Zardari tries to divest his office of its powers, especially those of appointment (especially of the service chiefs) and of dissolution, the first opposition he will face will be that of the military. And the military probably has enough clout to call in foreign support on this. After all, the dissolution power might have to be used on a government which is not fully cooperative in the War On Terror. And at this point, the War is the only noise in town. Pakistan has got to get used to a very political president, who has not even given up his party office, let alone his membership. And so must the services, which, through the army, have held that office for thirty-two years, which must get used to a supreme commander whose contact with the military was as a student at the Cadet College Petaro, and then as PM's husband with a number of ADCs and MSs, and now at last with service chiefs. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk