Salman Taseer has become Punjab Governor, but is not the natural first choice for President Pervez Musharraf, whose previous two appointments to the post were of retired lieutenant-generals, and who would have chosen another retired lieutenant-general if it had been left entirely to him. So Salman had to be a party choice, and it would be instructive to see what choices the party had made, and how did Musharraf behave when a party imposed its choice on him. The party that chose Salman was the PPP, not the PML-N, for Salman had no affiliation to the PML-N, but a deep affiliation to the PPP. Apart from the fact that he had written an Urdu biography (or rather hagiography) of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Salman, a successful accountant by profession, served a term as MPA in Lahore, in 1988-90, when he won one of the provincial seats under Benazir Bhutto's constituency, which she gave up, only for the then IJI to win it in the by-election. Salman was given the PPP ticket in 1990 for this seat, but lost, and his provincial seat was also lost. Incidentally, the PPP in these two, as in the next three, elections, was more or less washed out of Lahore, winning provincial seats only in 1993 and not thereafter. This might provide one reason for making him governor, the assignment of making a few provincial seats available for the PPP in the next election. That the Sharif brothers and their PML-N will take all of Lahore's urban seats is part of the electoral lore by now, but for a party to start off with Lahore's nine national and 14 urban provincial seats is a tremendous headstart in any race for the chief ministership, as the PML-N finds in every election. It is not as if the PPP has tried this particular route before. Governor Meraj Khalid, the PPP's second appointment, but actually the first of a mere representative of the president under the 1973 constitution, was a Lahori, but not Mustafa Khar, Sadiq Hussain Qureshi and Abbas Khan Abbasi, who were Bhutto's governors after him. Then we come to the 1988-90 period when General (retd) Tikka Khan was named by the PPP, remaining governor throughout the second Nawaz Ministry in the Punjab, and then there is 1993-6, when Chaudhry Altaf Hussain died in office and was succeeded in 1995 by Lt General (retd) Raja Sarooj Khan. It was assumed that Altaf had a political agenda, but that sharp political operator did not do much, except help Manzoor Wattoo and Arif Nakai (the era's two chief ministers) create the ground for the biggest-ever PML-N win in 1997, the biggest ever mandate since the 1946 elections, and for the PPP as well as their PML-J to suffer their greatest ever defeats. The PPP therefore has a record of the military option. While Tikka added the PPP secretary-generalship to his military credentials as a former COAS, no other military man has belonged to a party, which is why no governorship has gone to a military man except under military rule, when it is mostly combined with the chief ministership, and is very much an executive post. Perhaps that is why so much is expected of a Punjab Governor. When the reckoning is made, a military president is usually more powerful than a civilian prime minister, and a military governor than a civilian, because both combine two offices under the constitution, and the clear distinction it makes between heads of state and government, is erased. Usually, the transition from one kind of governorship to another, from the military to the constitutional, is difficult. Only Khalid Maqbool of the Punjab has been retained throughout a second term by a chief minister. There is also the pressure for this office that the federal government should resist, but does not. One of the symbols of a government arriving, taking over and being firmly in the saddle is that it has put in place governors of its own choice, as the PPP did under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, which was the only time it controlled all four provincial governments without any partner. This is urged often upon the government by the supporters of one candidate or the other. However, it is only with a political government, like at present. That governorships comes into question. The PPP has presided over changes in every province. In Sindh, the PPP had conceded the governorship to the MQM, which already had it under the old power-sharing arrangement, and never gave it up, not received it anew. This appointment is most symptomatic of the new arrangement, because Governor Eshratul Ebad is both an MQM nominee, and acceptable to the president. In Balochistan former CM Zulfikar Magsi has replaced Awais Ghani, who has gone back to the NWFP where he is originally from, and where he had served before as governor. The Punjab, it had long been agreed between the PPP and the PML-N, would see all the parliamentary posts (CM, speaker, etc) would go to the latter, and the governorship to the former. Therefore, the PML-N does not really have an objection, for the post is in the president's appointment, and he technically even didn't need to consult the PPP, but did. Obviously, he had to make sure he had the right host in Lahore. That the president appointed the person whom the PPP gave him indicates both the PPP's understanding of the president and its co-chairman's willingness to accommodate him. The president's power over the PPP is not to be underestimated. As it is, Salman Taseer has been appointed to make the Punjab a Larkana. Larkana is known for two things: being the homeland of the Bhuttos, and being solidly PPP. Taseer's assignment focuses on the latter, and he is starting a series of meetings with all-Punjab party organisations that make it clear that the PPP looks to the seat-rich Punjab to deliver its next electoral majority, a mandate as historic as it got in 1970. How Salman gets along with Shahbaz Sharif, who is to be his real CM, and who is as dedicated to keeping the PML-N majority in the Punjab, will only be seen after the coming by-elections. E-mail: maniazi@nation.com.pk