Visiting the sick is a common courtesy. However, when PML-N chief and Prime Minister-elect Mian Nawaz Sharif went to see PTI chief Imran Khan in hospital on Tuesday, it was not just an ordinary visit to someone indisposed, which Imran has been ever since his fall from a stage towards the end of the election campaign, last Tuesday. It was also the first meeting between two party heads after the polls. The meeting was pleasant, and prompted Mian Nawaz to make two comments afterwards. The first was that the two would play a friendly "match" after Mr Khan’s recovery. The second was that the mandate of the PTI to form a government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa and that of other political parties. This second is of immediate importance, for it implies that the PML-N will not join Maulana Fazlur Rehman and his JUI-F in the effort to build a coalition that could form the KP government without the PTI. It also suggests that the PML-N will not prevent the formation of a PPP government in Sindh. Taken with his first remark, it also implies Mian Nawaz’s expectation that the PTI will not play a negative role in its formation of the federal government, but also play a positive role afterwards. Perhaps Mian Nawaz is exhorting Imran Khan to remember his own "friendly opposition" example?

Perhaps the most important thing was not so much the understandings reached, or the agreements made, as the fact that the meeting took place at all. Social interactions between politicians not only provide an opportunity to arrive at political decisions, but also to create the sort of relations that reduce the fervour of confrontation. This is particularly important since the politics of confrontation is such a bane, and is so well entrenched. It is heartening for the entire country to have the two leaders put aside the bitterness of the campaign and vow to work for the betterment of the country.

This is a lesson which not only Maulana Fazlur Rehman would do well to profit from, but also MQM supremo Altaf Hussain. While the Maulana is doing his best to orchestrate the form of his own government in KP, the latter has spoken of getting his party the Sindh chief ministership, but should be satisfied with President Asif Zardari’s declaration to his party’s MNAs-elect that the party would form the Sindh government with MQM participation. The PMLN, similarly, must accept that the PPP alone can form the Sindh government, and if it is to take any other party aboard in Sindh, that would be its own decision.