The PPP has turned to the Presidency for arguments to explain why it has backed out of the deal with the PML-N on the judges, and the Presidency has trotted out once again all the reformist arguments that are normally used to justify military rule. The PML-N meanwhile has moved into a mode where it might bring down the government at any time, by its decision to support the Gilani government from outside. The PPP decision to support the PML-N's Punjab government is not just meant to keep some of its MPAs off the streets as provincial ministers, but to make sure that the Gilani government is not brought down when the possibility exists of the PML-N rejoining the government. The reformist argument runs a little like this: with the atta, petrol and power crises in full spate, the common man is not worried about the judges. Therefore the judges are not worth restoring; the votes are simply not there. No one is concerned about them. Ordinary people are more concerned with prices and supplies. This is more or less the same argument that arrives with each martial law: that people are more concerned with roads, water supply and other indicators of development than political issues of foreign and security policy. This approach does not take account of the wide range of interests of the common man, who makes his voting decisions contingent on a wide range of factors, with foreign policy having an input, and prices, as well as the entire gamut of issues. That is one major reason for the failure of military rule: the inability of the military ruler to realise that the ordinary voter is more than ready to take up the "heavy" issues. The PPP is apparently making the same mistake, of insulting the ordinary man by under-estimating his intelligence. The ordinary voter has made the connection between the restoration of the judges and his own life, which is why the issue gained votes for the PML-N. In fact, it is for the PPP to think, not the PML-N, that the judges' restoration was emotive enough an issue for the PML-N to use it, it turned out successfully, to counter the Benazir sympathy vote. The argument that the prices and the shortages should be solved first, and the judges don't count is a development argument. It also tacitly acknowledges the reality that the problems are international, and thus cannot be solved. It also deflects the blame from the previous government, which is claiming that not only was there no problem, but it presided over the best time ever in Pakistan's economy, onto the present government, which in turn is busy with the blame game. It tells the common man that he should not worry his ignorant Third-World head over First-World concepts like the rule of law, including the freedom of the judiciary, because they are not meant for him, with his black skin, or his Third-World society. The PPP sounds odd using as its mainstay this argument, which would sound more comfortable coming from the Presidency, which has been used to making this particular argument for the last eight years: that the people of Pakistan are not interested in anything but development, and certainly not in some judges. The PPP has also attacked the methodology that Mian Nawaz Sharif wanted as unconstitutional. There are two things that the PPP has not mentioned: first, the methodology is that which the PPP itself first proposed. Second, the PPP has shown a rather late concern about matters such as constitutionality. It has also offered to take along all stakeholders, which means the president as well, who regards the restoration of the judges as a matter of embarrassment. It is a mystery how the PPP thinks it can accommodate the president in all this, or rather how PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari, who is the president's friend in the party, can be satisfied, along with PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, who was elected on a plank of supporting the judges. The solution Mian Nawaz has found, that of pulling out of the Central government while supporting it from outside, is actually the quid pro quo of the PPP adopting the judges' issue as its own. The Bhurban Declaration is more famous for the judges, but it also bound the smaller parties in the coalition, mainly the PML-N, to join the central cabinet. This compulsion clearly indicates that the PML-N originally wanted to stay out of the central cabinet. Past precedents do not argue for the long-term lasting-ness of the arrangement. Interestingly, none of the precedents pertain to the UK and the Mother of Parliaments, indicating that this is a new twist, and not intrinsic to the parliamentary system of government, like coalition governments were a distinct possibility under the parliamentary system. The previous instance of support from outside was across the border, that of the Janata Dal government with VP Singh as PM, which was supported by the Congress (I) of Rajiv Gandhi, but from the outside. The sole purpose of the support was the precipitation of an election by the Dal faction headed by Ch Devi Lal, which enjoyed power under Chandrashekhar. The result of those elections was a Congress(I) comeback, but with Rajiv assassinated on the first of three days of polling, it was Narasimha Rao who became PM. Thus Nawaz is apparently moving into position to cause a general election, but over here the election date has almost never been determined by a political party, but this has always been decided by the establishment. The apparent exception is 1977, but the then establishment was a political party. Events are moving against Pervez Musharraf, because they seem to be moving against the Americans. At present, the only lever that the USA and Musharraf have over Pakistan is economic, how many dollars Musharraf can pull in, to meet the multiple deficits we face. However, Musharraf is used to desperate throws of the dice, which he links to Pakistan, not to subservience to America. At least America has gone public by sending Richard Boucher to meet Nawaz and Zardari. It goes without saying that the talks failed because of the US intervention, not despite; and the party least interested in bringing back the judges is the USA, probably because of the missing persons case, for which the chief justice, his court and the PML-N have had to pay such a price. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk