After leading the historic long march to a successful conclusion, Nawaz Sharif is flying high. He not only forced the PPP-led government to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as Chief Justice of Pakistan when it was considered almost impossible but also restored the PML (N) government in Punjab, establishing the point that PML (N) under his stewardship is a force to reckon with from now onwards. Note the newfound interest of US government's functionaries in Nawaz Sharif. His Raiwind Palace is now a must-visiting place for diplomats eager to size up what the Sharifs are up to. What a turnaround of fortunes as they figured nowhere when February elections were held They were discarded by the West, which put all its eggs in PPP's basket, had nudged Benazir and Musharraf to seal a deal in which they hardly a role to play. One could note a new confidence in the Sharifs in dealing with political entities in the country especially the PPP. This self-belief that led them to turn down President Asif Zardari's offer to rejoin the federal cabinet without even a second thought, as if it no longer required the PPP support. Taking Zardari so lightly was not possible for the Sharifs before because they depended on the PPP for political survival before March 15 when Nawaz single-handedly got everything he wanted. The Sharifs' decision to stay away from the PPP underlined probably their desire for an absolute power, without sharing it with anybody including PPP or PML (Q). The support of PML (Q)'s forward bloc has relieved them of all pressures and constraints. The PML (Q) has already been rejected by the party, Nawaz looked down upon it, asking the Chaudhrys to apologise to the nation for associating with a dictator before he considers holding talks with them. The political leaders who know Nawaz Sharif's mind claimed that he would sit in peace only when he has achieved his political goals. Knowing fully well that he enjoyed public support at least in Punjab, which makes a lot difference in the electoral politics of Pakistan, Nawaz must have set his eyes on the next general elections whenever they are held. The sooner the election are held the better it is for the PML (N) that is probably hoping to repeat the miracle of 1997 when it managed to get two-thirds majority in the parliament and enjoyed absolute power. But before that happens Nawaz is busy making ground for that cherished moment. He takes keen interest in the working of the Punjab government. In a short span of time of a week or so he presided over two meetings with province's political and bureaucratic leadership in audience and shared with the participants his vision how to go about from now onwards. The party's decision against rejoining the PPP in the centre was not wholly unexpected. Here we see power politics taking precedence over the collective interest of the country. Why should the PML (N) join when the PPP is besieged from all sides, facing uncertain future? If PPP fails to come to the people's expectations why should it share the blame? It would not be wise for the leadership with eyes on the next election and doing popular politics to join the PPP government at such a crossroads. Again, why the PML (N) should strengthen the PPP government at this time and provide it support when it needs it the most in its future pursuits, be they economic pursuits or the war against terror. For the time being PML (N) appeared more than contended having their government in Punjab, which implies that its writ extends to more than half of Pakistan. By virtue of having government in Punjab, the PML (N) leadership is very much in a position to keep its members happy by giving them development funds, jobs, patronage, etc. From the point of view of the country's collective interests, the decision not to join the PPP government is rather disappointing. The people want the two sides to work in unison for political stability when Pakistan is passing through a crucial phase. If past is any indication there are chances that they would take position against each other. The emerging power equation leaves much room for political wheeling-dealing. Already the PML (Q) leaders felt relieved to find the two parties parting ways. They see an opportunity in the unfolding scenario. E-mail: