The incumbent president does not seem to be as firmly ensconced in the presidency as he was when he took oath of the office a year ago, albeit amidst the clamours of broken promises and shattered trusts. However, one must appreciate, that despite the ever-decreasing popularity of the president over the year, he has, courtesy a judicious and highly respected PM, come out of every crises unscathed. But the question is, firstly how long the president would be able to hold his ground, in the wake of his growing unpopularity and the recent attempts by some quarters to dethrone him? And secondly, how long the PM would resort to cleaning the mess at the cost of his and PPP's political power base? In this regard, the emergence of the unruly minus-one formula - which is an euphemism for the early exit of the president from the corridors of power, while keeping the rest of the governmental infrastructure intact - has further loosened the grip of the president on the reign of the government. Secondly, the tug-of-war between the president and the PM and the ever-increasing assertiveness of the latter, which first appeared on the surface on the issue of the judges' restoration and the promulgation of emergency in Punjab, has reached new proportions after the PM sacked the Steel Mill's chairman on corruption charges. Moreover, the general perception that it is the all-powerful president who is to be blamed for all the ills afflicting the country today has made things more difficult for the supports of the president. The antics by the presidency and its plethora of advisors, like making a mess of the issue of re-instatement of the judges, the ill-advised manoeuvre to impose emergency in Punjab, and the attempted changes in the Cyber Crime ordinance recently, have not helped matters either for the president, who looks hapless and helpless in the wake of his low public approval ratings as compared to those of the PM. In the wake of all this, all that was needed from PM Gilani, was to support the democratic voices, like he did during the lawyers' movement, in their pursuit for the trial of a dictator who literally brought the country to the brink of destruction during his nine years rule. But, much to the chagrin of the democratic forces in the country, PM chose to support the dictator, when he held, at the floor of the National Assembly, that the issue of accountability of Musharraf was a 'dead issue' and that the trial was 'not doable', apart from making any such trial conditional on passing of an almost-impossible unanimous resolution in the Assembly, given the presence of a sizeable number of Musharraf's supporters in the house. Now the big question is what is it that is holding an otherwise true democrat like Gilani, who has, from the very outset of his tenure as PM, refused to oblige the dictatorial tendencies inside or outside his party, from going ahead with the trial of a dictator? Are these constraints more sacrosanct than those that initially prevented the re-instatement of the judges? Yes, the 'deal' with foreign guarantors is in the way. The non-restoration of the judges was a comparatively less important part of the deal, or even otherwise a way out was found, as it transpired later on. Not to hold Musharraf accountable for his misdeeds, on the other hand, constitutes the main operative part of the deal, with which no deviation could be allowed at any cost, or else another 'case of exploding mangoes' may surface, so the insiders of the deal would say. The PM's dithering on the issue, therefore, can be explained in the light of this deal, and the drastic consequences in case of its non-adherence. If the recent history in the past one or so year is a guide, the PM would be better off withdrawing his earlier statements about the impracticality of Musharraf's trial, and lodge a formal complaint in the trial court, as per Article 6 and the High Treason Act, 1973, to start a trial of treason against the dictator. The PM does not have to go far to remember that despite the existence of the same deal and the guarantors, judges were restored on the back of a large populist movement. Similarly, the coup on the province of the Punjab failed, owing largely to the power base of PML- N in the province. Going in the same vein, the nation may not have to wait for long to see Musharraf in the dock, but at the cost of further instability and lawlessness, which could well be foreseen if another mass movement starts. So the ball is in the court of the federal government, especially the PM, to make a timely decision with regard to the trial of Musharraf, or it may risk loosing whatever is left of its popularity, along with making the country go through another bout of wanton instability. In this regard, it must be remembered, that according to the law, there is no need of a resolution by the Parliament, what to talk of a unanimous resolution; all the concerned law dictates is that a complaint is to be filed by the federal government in the trial court. Therefore, the controversy regarding the resolution should be put to rest, once for all, without delving into the details of why PML-N, which has earlier vowed to initiate any such resolution in the Assembly, has apparently backed off from its commitment. PML-N, however, should be severely reprimanded for its propensity to take every issue to the Supreme Court, especially the recent petition by its senator and senior vice president, Zafar Ali Shah. Notwithstanding the purported disowning of the said petition by PML-N, it is clear that Mr Shah could not have taken such a drastic measure without duly consulting his party. Therefore, PML-N and other political parties in the Parliament should understand that the trial of Musharraf is solely and exclusively the domain of the federal government, while the Parliament and the courts have got nothing to with it. Now it's a separate issue altogether, if the federal government does not have the will to exercise its power, in which case, another mass movement might well be on its way. The writer is a corporate lawyer based in Islamabad E-mail: