The country has descended into chaos, as was inevitable. Of course, since it is a country, there is much happening outside the vortex of chaos, which is very clearly not chaotic, but ordered and sequential, and creates the impression of a country which is still running, and allows those responsible for the running of the country, from the president down, to claim that everything is for the best in the best of all worlds. There are still budgets being presented, and presumably the governments have the majorities to get them passed. The demand for grant for the Balochistan Social Welfare Department will go through the correct assembly, just as the demands for the grants of its corresponding provincial and federal counterparts, and of so many other departments, will go through, form part of the budget, and lead to the release of monies for spending next fiscal year, which starts on July 1, as well as the more important extraction of monies from the citizenry through taxation. The governments, all five of them, will continue to function, and will continue handling to the best of their ability the crises that will continue to beset them even though the military is no longer ruling, though hardly back in the barracks, though admittedly the only remnant of military rule is now a president who was COAS last year. Yet even though the president is no longer COAS, he is the biggest visible example of the chaos that is afflicting the country. He continues to enjoy power he is not supposed to have, through his nexus with the armed services chiefs, a nexus created by his power of appointing them, though he will not name any new service chiefs until he names a new Chief of Air Staff in 2009. Because of this nexus, his power to dissolve the National Assembly, and thus dismiss the government of the day, under Article 58 (2b) is greatly enhanced. What has also proved helpful is the composition of the post-Emergency judiciary, which presumably is such that it will not interfere in the work of the executive, especially under Article 58 (2b), which has been placed under compulsory judicial review. In a recent TV talk, the president described as unbalanced any president carrying out a dissolution now, not Article 58 (2b) as such that it can only be used where the president feels a dissolution is necessary, and the prime minister disagrees, with now the added provision that the Supreme Court is not ready to interfere in the work of the executive by restoring the dissolved National Assembly as the result of its power of judicial review, and in short agrees with the president that the government of the Federation can no longer be carried out in accordance with the provisions of the constitution. And an appeal to the electorate is necessary. Article 58 (2b) provides that wherever the president disagrees with the PM enough, he should be able to sack him. There is no provision for a PM being able to sack a president with whom he disagrees. The government has prepared a constitutional package where this provision has been removed. The president does not want to lose this power, and though he has said he will not, can only use his dissolution power so long as the package is not passed. It is entirely possible that the PPP itself is showing the president what things would be like, not so much if the dissolution power were to be withdrawn, as during the process. The PPP itself controls the next destabilising process, that of the budget. The PPP is not really partnered by the PML-N in this budget session, as it was when there was a PML-N finance minister, but it has done its best to give a Budget in which there is both relief for the masses and some indication of a way out. But the government no longer enjoyed the one-time monopoly on news-space in papers and airtime on TV. The lawyers got a share of that, and the Budget was rescheduled because of the Long March, not the other way around. The PPP has not yet restored the judiciary to its pre-Emergency position, which is why the lawyer's movement has not died out. The PPP has not been able to convince itself of the justness of the president's position, nor has it been able to convince him of its own. Therefore, for want of another fallback position, the PPP remains committed to saving the president from embarrassment. In short, it remains against the judges being restored. It is also committed to suppressing Al-Qaeda in the tribal areas through force, and before the budget has ended the agreement to end the fighting in the settled areas, let alone the tribal areas. While this may earn visas at foreign embassies, it will not solve the problem of militancy. The Americans themselves have used force in Afghanistan, without the required results, so it is clearly a strategy without a future. However, since the militants will probably make the cities of Pakistan unsafe so long as they have volunteers for suicide bombings, another aspect of uncontrollability has been added in. The Budget will not achieve what it aims to, not because the finance minister is insincere, which he is not, but because no budget at present could impose any order on food and fuel prices, both domestic and international, make sure the poor were not abandoned, and that trade and industry were encouraged to reach levels allowing them to export enough to cover our imports. Syed Naveed Qamar thus disappointed no one with his Budget. Though N-Leaguers may talk now, the Budget was no different from the one that Ishaq Dar would have presented, had he remained in office. Yet the inability of the Federal Budget to show that the government would overcome the crises that we face as an economy, means that the provinces, when their turn comes (and swiftly) to unveil their budgets, indicates yet another crisis which throws into doubt the state's ability to rule. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk