All kind of efforts seem to be underway to diagnose the malaise the country is afflicted with and a myriad of hypotheses and prescriptions are being proffered as treatment. In this seemingly endless pursuit, some elementary facts are being overlooked. The general elections in Pakistan were held as a consequence of a deal brokered by the United States between General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. It was consummated through the promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO). As a quid pro quo, Benazir Bhutto consented to work with General Musharraf after "winning" the elections and lend total support to the US version of the War On Terror. It also agreed with the US not to work for the restoration of the judiciary that was perceived as a viable threat to the fulfilment of the American agenda in Pakistan and, in the larger context, in South Asia. All this was done in the name of "democracy" and "reconciliation". I, for one, have never come across a more distorted and demeaning interpretation of these two fair contours of a civilised existence. The promulgation of the emergency (nay martial law) of November 3 and the "suspension" of the judiciary were the means to save this broad understanding between the US, General Musharraf and Benazir Bhutto. Two unexpected things happened in the run-up to the elections and on the day of the polls: Benazir Bhutto was assassinated and Nawaz Sharif was able to secure a share in the assemblies that went far beyond the wildest expectations of the establishment. So, instead of Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) being able to form the government on its own, it was faced with the option of a coalition on the one hand with PML-N, and on the other hand with PML-Q and MQM. The choice was again elementary: a coalition with PML-N would help the PPP continue wearing the mask of "democracy" while a coalition with PML-Q and MQM would be shorn of any pretensions of the same and would land the party straight in the lap of General Musharraf. As expected, PPP went for a coalition with PML-N, but only as a transition to greener pastures This made for a shaky coalition, as there was a vast gap between the agendas of the two parties, both open and hidden. While PPP was committed to working with a PCOed Musharraf, refrain from restoring the judiciary as on November 2 and extend total and unequivocal support to the US War On Terror, PML-N was committed to just the opposite: the name Musharraf was anathema to it, its legislators had taken an oath to restore the judiciary and it had strong reservations regarding the US led War On Terror. The question arose: how to make the coalition work at least as long as it would take the PPP to dig deep and find a footing? Unfortunately, PPP and its NROed leadership chose the path of deception and deceit. On the insistence of PML-N, it went so far as to formally sign a document at Murree committing itself to restoring the judiciary within a period of thirty days: a commitment it never meant to honour. But, in the process, what its NROed leadership underestimated was the principled (according to some "stubborn") stand taken by PML-N in refusing to compromise on either the restoration of the judiciary, or agreeing to work with a PCOed Musharraf. While PML-N has remained consistent in its demands in spite of some opposition from within its own ranks, PPP has resorted to a series of ugly tricks to hoodwink not only the PML-N leadership, but also the people of Pakistan. Its insistence that it is willing to restore the judiciary through a constitutional package is a charade that would not go beyond the paper it is written on. But, there is this other dimension to it that should not be overlooked: it has to indemnify General Musharraf for his action of November 3 because, without doing that, it would not be able to sanctify the fruits of that black piece of legislation, the NRO Restoration of the judiciary through an executive order (as it should be) throws open the prospect of the judges proceeding straight away with declaring the election of General Musharraf as unconstitutional and illegal, annulling the NRO and reinstating all the criminal and graft cases against Asif Zardari. The NROed leader of PPP has to be out of his mind to agree to an eventuality pregnant with such possibilities while it is also not acceptable to the guarantor of the sordid deal as it would remove their agent provocateur in Pakistan - a man who has done more to secure their agenda that has cost the country dearly as it stands dangerously close to a slide into an orgy of violence and anarchy. With this unbridgeable gap, the two leaderships stand widely apart, as all hopes for a compromise have conclusively faded. The NROed leader has shifted headquarters to Dubai while Nawaz Sharif sits in London. A dummy prime minister goes through the dumb motions of running the country while the party's spin doctors continue weaving webs of deceit proclaiming their avowed "innocence" of any wrong doing. Honestly, they present an utterly humiliating spectacle on the television screens, as they have nothing by way of responding to the piercing questions with regard to their conduct in defending a military ruler and procrastinating on the restoration of the judiciary. All they have to offer is a miserable bouquet of semantics that carry no meaning, no value. This is the upshot of the malaise that Pakistan suffers from. It is a story of treachery and intrigue unleashed on a simple people who go by way of faith and trust. It is a tale of one party's pursuit of an anti-democracy and anti-judiciary agenda with the support of vestiges of dictatorship and offshore guarantors. Instead of proceeding to dismantle the edifice of despotism and its manifestations, a strenuous effort is afoot to provide additional crutches for their preservation and elongation. It is a shame keeping in mind the historic track record of the party and an elevating anti-dictatorship profile that it could boast of. Truly, parties are only a reflection of the people who lead them. An absolute subservience to the wiles of the NRO cannot make a leadership. It, in fact, would only spell doom, taking the party down the precipice to oblivion. The entire burden now rests on the shoulders of Nawaz Sharif: if he continues to hang on to the coalition, he would be responsible for lending PPP a faade of "democracy". His decision to snap the umbilical cord would land the PPP where it really belongs: in the lap of dictatorship That's when the battle for Pakistan's salvation would begin in earnest. Elementary, my dear Watson, elementary The writer is a media and political consultant based in Islamabad.  E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com