Gone is the 'here to there grin and the happy go lucky, I got the world on a string attitude of our globetrotting President. And that certain smile that used to hover on the corner of his lips, has been replaced by deep and tense worry lines and tight lips. While the catchy 'Pakistan Khapech phrase coined by AZ himself, is being gradually replaced by 'Zardari Na Khapech slogan and political pundits predict that the countdown has begun and AZs days in the Presidential Palace are numbered. However, we have been hearing these 'Ides of March predictions ever since the day Mr. Zardari took the oath as the 11th President of Pakistan. But he has repeatedly proved his detractors to be wrong and has survived all the crises that have been thrown in his face, with that confident and 'certain smile. His critics seem to forget that he is a trapeze artist and has mastered the art of the dangerous triple somersault. He has neglected the real issues facing the country and yet he has managed to somersault his way through parliament and one crisis after another. He promises of doing away with Article 58(II)B and implementing the much awaited Charter of Democracy, signed by the late Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, in letter and in spirit, but fails to do so. But now, the pressure on AZ has been mounting and there seems to be a well-planned strategy to 'Get Zardari, most of which has been of his own doing. He has broken so many promises, that now his credibility has dropped to zero and he does not have too many loyal supporters in his ranks. And instead of choosing his ministers and advisors on their qualifications and experience, he has surrounded himself with non-state actors and friends and cronies with a shady pass, with little experience or skills in managing the affairs of a difficult country like Pakistan. While the Minus One Formula suggested by his opponents, could very well end up, according to the Governor Punjab, as a minus 342 formula, in other words, the sacking of parliament. However, under the present political scenario, this seems unlikely. On top of that, his past deeds of omissions and commissions seem to be catching up on him and allegations of kickbacks that were paid to him a decade ago, are resurfacing again. The investigators also suggest that the non-payment of the full commission might be linked to the deaths of 11 French nationals in a 2002 terror attack in the city of Karachi. These are serious allegations, which, if AZ is innocent, should not be ignored and must be challenged in the International Courts. The aggressive and hard line mindset of our superior judiciary also indicates that they will not stand any nonsense and AZ and his cronies could be in for a rough time. All hell could break loose for him and the 5000 odd politicians and bureaucrats, once the protection of the infamous NRO is gone. The abrupt and dramatic U-turn by his close allies and friends on this highly important and sensitive issue, also indicates that AZs luck is running out. Then there is the problem of the safety of our nuclear arsenal. The recent articles by Seymour Hersh, a well-known and respected journalist, have highlighted the apprehensions the Americans have about the safety of our nuclear arms. According to him and other various reports, our wheeling and dealing leaders have compromised our sovereignty and our national issues, in order to ensure their own stay in power and have allowed Blackwater personnel to operate in Pakistan. It now appears that these unsavoury men have been allowed to establish a base in Pakistan in case of an emergency. It sounds incredible, but looking at our system of governance, one should not be surprised if the Americans are worried about our ability to protect ourselves. The recent attacks on our army headquarters and various intelligence service buildings clearly indicate that there is a serious lapse of security in our ranks. We may give assurances until we are blue in the face, but it will still be difficult to convince the Yanks that our nuclear arsenal is secure and safe. According to Mr. Hersh, 'The Americans main fear is mutiny and a coup by extremists within the Pakistani military, who could take control of some nuclear assets. Seems a bit far fetched, but looking at the terrible track record of our governments in governing Pakistan, one has to admit that their apprehensions could be justified. As one diplomat friend of mine explained, 'It is like giving a drunk, trigger happy teenager, a loaded gun in a party and hope that nothing will happen. Unabated suicide bombings, deteriorating law and order, badly planned policies, increasing corruption, runaway inflation and strong reservations about the K-L Bill, are creating a lot of unrest in the country. Hilary Clinton must have taken notice of all these contradictions and uncertainty in the country and must have realized that AZ does not have the ability to govern this unruly and fragmented nation. According to reports, The Secretary of State had noted the bunkered mentality of our President, who seemed to be more concerned with his personal safety, then in running the country. 'In three short days, the experienced lady recognised that the people in the Presidency were opportunists, a blend of robber barons and Mafiosi combined. Within hours of her boarding her flight home, the signal was given, that Zardari was to be cut loose from US support, just like Musharraf. It is obvious that AZ does not have the charisma or the leadership quality to steer this ship out of troubled waters, but then who does? NS and all the rest of them are doubtful starters and the Americans would not go for them. And Imran Khan seems to have gone back to the pavilion for the moment, retired hurt due to a recent operation. So, frankly what options do the American advisors have for their President, except to read out the riot act and recommend that he should call out the Marines or the 5th Cavalry, just in case shove comes to a push in Pakistan. However, let us not forget that AZ is a survivor and no push over. He will not go down without a fight and what the outcome of that would be for the nation, is the million-dollar question? H Maker. (email: trust@super.net.pk).