ISLAMABAD - President Asif Ali Zardari's Punjab adventure always seemed to have a dubious chance of success even after he put all the state resources and authority at the disposal of Governor Salman Taseer. But what happened on the roads on Sunday and his subsequent retreat have dashed whatever hopes the PPP had nurtured to seize control of country's biggest province with PML-Q's help after a gap of over three decades. Quietly in public and loudly in private, there is clear recognition that the PPP initiative has backfired. "It is all over for us", one PPP old guard sighed in utter frustration cursing the day when President Zardari was led by his courtiers the likes of Rehman Malik, Dr Asim, Farooq H Naek, Latif Khosa and Babar Awan to be part of Ch Pervaiz Elahi's machination to get into this trap in June last year. It was a script written by former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to solemnise a PPP-PML-Q marriage to oust Sharifs for which he had named their two inveterate foes, Salman Taseer as Governor and Manzoor Wattoo as Advisor to the Prime Minister, ostensibly in consultation with Zardari. The PML-N is now in an unassailable position. The fence-sitters in the PML-Q are bound to swell the ranks of the forward bloc. That in turn would remove the lurking apprehension of disqualification under the defection clause on which Chaudhry cousins had built their hopes to scare them back to their group. Ironically, if that phenomenon occurs and the rebels constitute majority, as is very likely, the Chaudhry group itself may come under mischief of the Defection Law. The return of Punjab government to Sharifs now appears to be certain and the establishment that has played a key role in the final outcome of the lawyers' movement would ensure that all things fall in line according to the agreed script that has the sanction of our foreign donors and the military establishment. What is intriguing is the way it is likely to happen. The same Governor's Rule that was imposed to oust Shahbaz will now play out in his favour to bring him back to power and would not be lifted until that is accomplished. An earlier withdrawal would impel convening of assembly session to elect a new leader after which the ban on third term would apply in case of Shahbaz Sharif. The Prime Minister has promised that the Federal Government would go for a review petition before the Supreme Court that had banished Sharif brothers from parliamentary politics. The petition for that purpose awaits release of detailed judgment of the 3-member bench of the Supreme Court which is expected anytime. A stay order putting on hold the February 25 court ruling is expected to reinstal Shahbaz Sharif as chief minister pending final verdict on the review. The verdict that knocked down Sharifs' case was immediately dubbed as deeply flawed and politically-motivated. The Lahore High Court disposing speedy justice had disqualified only Nawaz Sharif in June. All these months and till last two days of the lengthy hearing in the court, Shahbaz Sharif's eligibility was never put in question. Out of blue came Barrister Raza Kasuri's assertion involving Shahbaz. The gentleman who never tires claiming credit for sending Bhutto to gallows is these days PPP establishment's darling as are the Chaudhry cousins. He produced Press clippings to demonstrate that Shahbaz denigrated the judiciary making him liable to disqualification. Hitherto the court had not heard arguments on the merits of the Lahore High Court verdict but on (i) its own bias to hear the case, (ii) the legal basis of the petitions filed by the Federal Government and proposers of Sharif brothers and the request for constituting a larger bench to hear the case. On February 24 the court was supposed to hear from Attorney-General Latif Khosa. But President Zardari, who was to give the go-ahead signal, was in China and his return was delayed for some hours. Instead of Khosa, the court heard Kasuri and others. In Lahore, the plan to get Shahbaz and impose emergency in the province under Article 234 was given final touches in a meeting earlier in the day. The President on return to Islamabad okayed it in the evening. Khosa briefly argued in the court next day and a verdict based on merit was given dismissing the petitions as not maintainable. Shahbaz Sharif, who was never punished by any court on charges on which Kasuri based his case, was disqualified. This correspondent got a clue on 24th evening about plans to impose emergency next day. He was given to understand that the sticking point in the plan is that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's advice was necessary for the presidential order on emergency. The wording of the five emergency clauses in the Constitution is such as if the President has the power to impose it. But an overriding clause says that the Prime Minister is the chief executive and the President is bound by his advice for acting except where he has discretionary powers. The emergency power does not fall in that category. The conspirators feared that Gilani may refuse to agree. It is pity that the Chaudhry cousins were the first to meet President Zardari on Tuesday night since Gilani's speech. The three probably have yet not lost hope about Punjab. The rest is history.