Would President Zardari, after being disempowered by the 18th Constitutional Amendment, be a mere figurehead now? This is unlikely because simultaneous to being the President of Pakistan, he is also the chairperson of PPP which makes him politically very strong. And, there is no reason why his very compliant Prime Minister and his cabinet, who owe so much to him for whatever they are today, would not stand by him through thick and thin. So it should surprise no one if President continues to pull the strings in important state matters particularly those related to international obligations and important domestic compulsions. In foreign affairs too, he would probably continue to exercise influence on the government. The Prime Minister would likely keep seeking his advice on important issues every now and then. It is quite obvious that President Zardari would not be a mere figurehead like the Indian President or the British Queen even after the recent events like the passage of the 18th Amendment that some think have virtually clipped his wings. He would still be a force to reckon with. This, though, would be in total negation of the spirit of parliamentary democracy. In the existing political scenario, though, there can be no escape from this harsh reality. -FAROOQ ZAMAN, Lahore, May 15.