Though all parties are meeting each other, giving the impression that they are indeed taking the prospect of impending general elections seriously, the PML-N and the MQM are brewing up a mixture of their own. The MQM has been an ally of the PPP throughout the life of this Parliament, but a team of its leaders, headed by its parliamentary party leader Farooq Sattar, not only met a PML-N team headed by Senator Ishaq Dar, but also delivered messages for PML-N President Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from MQM chief Altaf Hussain, and also invited them to party headquarters at Nine Zero. The two parties also united in decrying the recent fuel price increase. This meeting, on Wednesday in Islamabad coincided with MQM talks with the PPP and its extraction of concessions on Sindh’s local body system. Meanwhile, those negotiations also stopped the PPP, although temporarily, from talking to the PML-N, because they led to Syed Khursheed Shah having to go to Karachi on the President’s summons. Though the PPP-PML-N agenda includes a new accountability law and the parliamentary commission on new provinces, it also is supposed to include the formation of a new caretaker government. The Eighteenth Amendment has made the appointment of a caretaker Prime Minister contingent on consultation of the Prime Minister with the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, and thus these talks have gained greatly in importance. While the PPP and PML-N have to talk without compromising their positions as the two main contenders in the elections, the MQM seems to have allowed the local bodies in Sindh to make it negotiate with both parties.  It is to be hoped that agreement on local bodies does not allow the PPP to argue for a postponement of elections. The Chief Election Commissioner, Mr Justice (Retd) Fakhruddin G. Ebrahim, has summoned the political parties for September 26 to examine the holding of local body polls first, and then general elections. Mr Justice Ebrahim’s appointment was recent, and the filling of the vacancy was itself considered a sign that general elections are to be held soon.The danger thus exists of local body polls being used to postpone the general election. This in turn would allow the President to be re-elected by the existing assemblies, from which he originally won. If everything takes place on time, the presidential election falls to the lot of the newly elected assemblies. The Chief Election Commissioner sees his task as being the conduct of impartial polls. He must not forget that presidential polls will also be part of his responsibility, and he must ensure the credibility of the electors. That implies preparing a credible voters’ list for their elections, and making sure that he maintains perfect neutrality, and is not seen as espousing any party’s cause.Democracy in Pakistan has proved a delicate plant, but it is clearly too important to be sacrificed at the altar of anyone’s, or any party’s wishes. The prescribed time restrictions must be observed if the journey of democracy is to continue.