It seems that Mian Nawaz Sharif's entry into the National Assembly is being delayed so much that his return to electoral politics, which was apparently the purpose of his return to Pakistan in defiance of the deal that led to his exile rather than execution, is being defeated, and he might not go to Parliament until the present National Assembly is no more. But at the same time, the reason sought to prevent his being elected to the Assembly is the War on Terror, and thus more than Mian Nawaz's by-election, the War needs to be examined. Nawaz was originally barred from contesting any election in Pakistan by virtue of his conviction in absentia in accountability references that had been filed under the Musharraf government. Shahbaz was similarly, but not identically, barred, but succeeded in contesting provincial elections, and won a seat from Bhakkar, for which he now sits, and thus was able first to become, and then to remain, Punjab chief minister. But the Supreme Court ruled that Mian Nawaz could contest the elections he wanted to. His Lahore seat as well as the Rawalpindi seat which had been left by his party, both of which had been stayed by the courts pending the decision on his eligibility, went vacant, and thus have not been filled for the life of this Parliament, which was elected in February 2008. However, that the electors of these two constituencies have gone un-represented is a comparatively serious matter, but has not been given the attention it deserves. What also seems to have slipped under everyone's radar is the fact that if Mian Nawaz won both seats, as expected, one would be the subject of a by-election. NA-123, the Lahore seat that Mian Sahib is contesting, is none other than his personal seat, which he contested successfully in every election since 1985, until 1999. His record on this seat has been that of unbeatability. Back in 1985, he gave up the seat when it was NA-85 after winning it in a party-less election, choosing the provincial seat it included and his first chief ministership, leaving it to be won by the Jamaat-i-Islami's Asad Gilani in the ensuing by-election. In 1988, he beat the PPP's Arif Iqbal Bhatti on NA-95, which was the old NA-85 more or less, following the delimitations that year. However, he chose the provincial seat again and another chief ministership. He repeated that victory in the 1990 elections, this time retaining NA-95, where he had beaten the PDA's Air Marshal (retd) Asghar Khan, to become prime minister for the first time. In the 1993 elections, he contested against the PPP's Zia Bakht Butt from NA-95, but also contested an Abbottabad-cum-Haripur seat, NA-12, which he retained, leaving NA-95 to be won in the by-election by Ishaq Dar, who was returned in the by-election. In the 1997 elections, he won this seat and this time gave it to Pervaiz Malik. This also marked the second time that Mian Nawaz became PM, and the first time that he had not sat for the seat, yet become PM, again winning and again retaining, the Haripur seat. Mian Nawaz did not contest the 2002 election conducted by the Musharraf government, but his party had entered into an electoral alliance with the Jamaat-i-Islami, on this seat among others, and Liaquat Baloch was elected from it. However, when Mian Nawaz returned, he was all set to reclaim the seat until stymied by his being a candidate at all was forbidden (Musharraf still conducted that election, of 2007, as president). However, it seemed that after an uphill struggle, Mian Nawaz was set to re-enter the Assembly, when the Punjab government declared that it could not conduct the by-election. Actually, both general elections and by-elections are conducted by the Election Commission of Pakistan, but the commission depends heavily upon the provincial government's cooperation to conduct them. Thus the provincial government gains a veto power on the holding or otherwise of by-elections. The provincial government was responsible for the postponement of the Jhang by-election, after the gunning down of Maulana Esarul Haq Qasmi of the Siipah-i-Sahaba Pakistan, who was contesting a by-election there. Therefore, if there was information of the Taliban or Al-Qaeda intending even one attack on an election rally, the postponement was probably an inevitability. Even if the Sharif brothers did not wish a postponement, the advice that Mian Shahbaz would be receiving as chief minister would ensure a postponement. He simply could not afford an incident which could threaten the Sharifs' hold over Lahore. The possibility of Nawaz losing has been raised as a reason for postponement, but as the history of the constituency, given above, shows the prospects of a loss here are remote. Though shifted to Model Town a long time ago, NA-123 contains the old Nawaz childhood home on Railway Road, which makes the constituency as near a native constituency as he has. Also, over the years, he has made Lahore his own. This was not the case in the 1988 election, when Mian Nawaz, then IJI president, won only four of Lahore's seats. NA-123 is a symbol of this success. It is not so much a Nawaz seat, as a safe seat, which he can gift out to 'men of business' who themselves lack safe seats. Therefore, for Mian Nawaz to fear a loss here, let alone actually lose, would mean a political revolution in Lahore, which has simply not yet happened. Govenor Taseer, who took office on the plank of making Lahore another Larkana, by which he meant making the district's seats as safe for the PPP as Larkana's are, may wish to claim that the postponement is because of his success, but the truth is that the revolution hasn't happened yet, and Mian Nawaz is still powerful in Lahore. A more important question would be what would Mian Nawaz do in the National Assembly. He is virtually certain not to get any office except that of the Leader of the Opposition. In his only stint in the National Assembly as Leader of the Opposition (1993-6), he was not much better than the pedestrian. The truth is, Mian Nawaz would never really be remembered as a great parliamentarian. For that, one must have either a formidable mastery of the rules of procedure, or a true gift of the gab. Nawaz has neither, and unless legislator's status leads to executive office, he has no incentive to enter Parliament. The postponement should be seen as a success of the militants, who do not believe in the elections anyhow. The postponement of the by-elections must be counted as one of the many costs of the War that Pakistan has to pay, ranging from less international cricket to less security for its citizens while shopping in its great centres. That no party is materially affected by the postponement (if Nawaz sees no purpose in a useless presence in Parliament, other parties see no need for an avoidable drubbing) is another important factor in the postponement. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk