Having transferred almost all his powers to the elected prime minister through constitutional amendments, on papers, President Asif Ali Zardari wielded no power to control the affairs of the government. Practically, everyone knew he had enjoying total control, not at the Centre but also in Sindh and to some extent in coalition governments of Khyber Pakhtunkhawa and Balochistan too.

With the guard of honour to outgoing premier Raja Pervaiz Ashraf, it is actually the ‘beginning of an end’ to President Zardari’s authority which he used through the premier, the outgoing federal cabinet, his handpicked and chosen ones. Throughout the last five years, even when Zardari had not occupied the presidency and was calling shots from Bilawal House, Islamabad and Karachi, and till this day, his handpicked bureaucrats ruled the roost in Islamabad. Take the case of the current establishment secretary who once served Ch Pervaiz Elahi as the Punjab secretary information and a long stint with PPP as the federal information secretary in the recent years, now occupying the slot of a top bureaucrat of the country.

There is a long list of bureaucrats, including high-level police officials who can face the opposition’s wrath and face reshuffle in the days to come. Likewise, the political governors in all the four provinces of the country will remain loyal to their boss at the presidency till an opposition inspired shakeup, if at all.

For now, everyone has fixed his eyes on electioneering and the Punjab province will be the real political battleground in 2013. With ‘baggage’ of ‘friendly opposition’ to the PPP regime as a stigma still intact to some extent, the PML-N stalwarts never seriously wanted to come up with a consensus candidate for the caretaker premier, a conspiracy theory taking circles in the capital notes.

PML-N, for all practical purposes, wants to play the role of a real opposition till the polling day on May 11, and top brains around Sharifs don’t want to provide Imran’s Tahreek-e-Insaf with anymore ‘moral high ground’ on the issues of governance. So Sharifs’ League is in a full-fledge opposition mode for the days to come. No more reign of power, at least for public consumption, but what merited the selection of Mir Hazar Khan Khoso from Balochistan to become the caretaker premier can be termed more targeted towards bringing the Baloch nationalists close to the center and persuading the dissidents like Mengal tribes to participate in the elections.

Interestingly, politics revolving around selection of the caretaker premier through the new constitutional method remained mysterious and unpredictable throughout the last eight days or so as strings of the decisions makers were being pulled from elsewhere. Apart from the opposition’s names, the government's list was, however, well crafted through inputs from the stakeholders and the military establishment as well. If Dr Hafeez Sheikh crashed out in the first round and Dr Ishrat Hussain faced stiff opposition from PML-N, Hazar Khan Khoso proved a dark horse.

The caretaker prime minister-designate and Chief Election Commissioner Fakhrrudin Ibrahim, combined, bring immense experience of around 168 years to hold the expected free, fair and impartial elections in this country. Irrespective of which political camp forwarded his name in the list of nominees for caretaker premier provided by the ruling coalition, Khoso seems to have a tacit approval of the military establishment of the country. To what end? His presence as a caretaker might lure some Baloch nationalists who are still away from the election process. It will also be taken as a good will signal from the establishment for the restive Balochistan.

The premier-designate himself didn’t mince words while telling eager newsmen minutes after his nomination that Balochistan is the key area he has to focus on. Khoso hails from Jaffarabad, Balochistan, the same area which gave this country a premier in the shape of Mir Zafarullah Jamali – a full-fledged premier of the military regime chosen in 2002. Jamali was sent packing in June 2004, almost one and a half years into his short-lived premiership and the replacement was a clownish banker, Saukat Aziz, famous for his obedience, shrewdness, proud of his Arabian Gulf, American and international financial institutions’ connections. Cut out to fit into the requirements of the military ruler of those days, Shaukat was nothing more than a glorified finance minister in the shoes of prime minister as rest of the governance matters were handled by Musharraf and his inner core. Jamali was made to resign so hurriedly that no one was ready to listen to his somewhat muted warnings about Balochistan’s unrest. It became a monster with Nawab Akbar Bugti’s death, the case mishandled by Musharraf’s close circles.

Like his departure, his arrival back home from four and a half years long self-exile in Dubai eventually became a low key affair owing to the same ‘serious security concerns’ he introduced to this country after 9/11. As soon as his scheduled public meeting at the Quaid’s mausoleum got cancelled, one could see visible signs of discontent on the faces of scores of his genuine workers and supporters that had come on the persuasion of interest groups went away riding their cars and vans hurriedly with a sigh of relief that they escaped any terrorist attack. The only relief was Musharraf’s brief address at the airport.

Unlike his departure, his arrival was well-negotiated. It required a clearance from the military establishment and some international guarantees. It was perhaps in this backdrop that ambassador of an influential Gulf country recently visited National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza along with the head of a premier civil intelligence agency. The event almost coincided with that of Gen Musharraf’s Umra pilgrimage in Saudi Arabia and visit of the intelligence agency’s chief to that country. Everyone could see what was being done. As many tried to persuade the former military general not to return home in the wake of imminent terrorist threats, some elements were too eager to tell him to show his leadership skills at this critical juncture. Former head of the premier spy agency, Lt-Gen (r) Ahmed Shujaa Pasha, also in Dubai these days, is said to use his ‘right connections’ to further Musharraf’s agenda of homecoming.

Conspiracy theories apart, Musharraf has only been able to set foot on the home turf; nothing more. His party is almost non-existent in the electoral politics of the country. If he himself is not sure of any safe constituency in Karachi, he might not contest at all, blaming the loopholes in the current system squarely, as Dr Tahirul Qadri did recently. For now, Qadri and Musharraf won’t find some reliable allies for electoral politics in near future. His former allies, the Chaudhrys of PML-Q, are with Zardari. Imran Khan wants to avoid him at any cost and seems inclined towards Jamaat-e-Islami to capture a seat or two from the PML-N heartland of Lahore.

In yesteryears, as Musharraf steered Pakistan towards a strange and alien war on terror in the post-9/11 scenario, Pakistani politics was influenced by Ch Shujaat-style politics in the absence of mainstream politicians like Shairfs and Bhuttos. Aided by his able second-in-command, Mushahid Hussain, the duo has kept their politics and party aligned with the military establishment yet to avoid the ‘official truth’ to some extent. Be it Lal Masjid or failed talks with the late Nawab Bugti, the duo did their bit to keep on sailing even in troubled waters.

With no hope to patch up with Sharifs in the offing and their able son Moonis Elahi behind bars with an uncertain future, Chaudhrys did bet a blind gamble to join hands with Zardari’s PPP. They enjoyed some federal ministries as a result. As a ceremonial Deputy Prime Minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi could fulfill at least some part of his unbridled wish to become prime minister of this country. But collaboration with an increasingly unpopular Zardari government which failed to deliver on law and order and economic fronts left PML-Q high and dry as the 2013 elections campaign started. The same electables who gathered around this party in 20020-8 are finally leaving this ship in a hurry, fearing it might sink soon. But apart from Pervaiz Elahi, PML-Q supremo, Ch Shujaat Hussain, is trying hard to rise above the petty gain politics, perhaps for the time being. The other day, Shujaat supported the March 23 six-point agenda of Imran Khan. Only in January, he was the most vocal supporter of Dr Tahirul Qadri's election reforms and polls-delaying agenda. Now Mushahid proudly tells the nation that Shujaat Hussain is the one who initially forwarded the name of Justice (r) Khoso for the post. What next?