When Mian Nawaz Sharif hosted President Asif Zardari at his Raiwind residence, he was merely following a long-established tradition for the heads of parties that were together in a coalition, and this was not the first consultation between the two party chiefs. However, the meeting was remarkable for a number of reasons, not least that President Zardari went to Mian Nawaz, rather than using his office to summon him, but also because the PPP and the PML(N), though now in coalition, are the natural opponents in any two-party system that is envisaged, and not only have they been the main political opponents in the past, but will be in the future. Their coalition is therefore not at all natural, thus adding to the strains inherent in the situation, but the PML(N) has left the federal government, while the PPP has clung to office in the Punjab, as the main non-PML(N) component of the Shahbaz government. In that respect, the coalition does not really exist, though it does have enough of an existence to make regular contacts between its leaders needed so that they avoid as sharp a disagreement as they had over the judges' issue, which only came to an end when, against its wishes, the PPP government agreed to the return of the ousted judges. Yet enough disagreement persisted to prevent the PML(N) ministers, who had resigned from the Cabinet when the judges were initially not restored, from rejoining the Cabinet. It appeared that the president was not particularly concerned with the PML(N), even though as PPP co-chairman he should be, not just because it was the biggest component of the coalition, but because it would almost surely be his party's main rival in the next elections. Indeed, it was the prime minister who seemed more anxious for the PML(N) to remain in support, and who had for some months taken on himself the responsibility of the communication of the coalition, through his contacts with Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif. However, this meeting demonstrated that the president was also committed to the coalition. At the same time, the meeting once again highlighted the need of the coalition to curtail the powers of the president. The meeting, according to the communiqu issued after, did see agreement that it was necessary to remove from the constitution those undemocratic clauses that had been inserted by successive dictatorships without reference to the will of the people. The next paragraph of the communiqu is even more explicit: "...commitment to the principles laid down in the Charter of Democracy to democratise the constitution and rid it of all undemocratic clauses including the 17th Amendment." This will marry the two dates that the PPP and the PML(N) have in mind respectively: July 5, 1977 and October 12, 1997, when General Ziaul Haq threw out the PPP government of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and General Pervez Musharraf threw out the second Nawaz government. The main problem that the PML(N) sees is that the constitution still carries the Eighth Amendment's Article 58-2(b), as well as the presidential power of appointing the service chiefs. These presidential powers were brought back by the 17th Amendment after Nawaz had removed them through the 13th Amendment. They would have been abolished long before, had the head of the PPP not become president, and that too after forcing President Pervez Musharraf to resign more than four years ahead of schedule. President Zardari has kept Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani under control by possession of these powers. It could be argued that the greatest check on Gilani is the fact that Zardari will grant PPP tickets in future, not Gilani, and the parliamentary party is obedient to the party chief, not the head of government. However, Zardari would want these powers to last, not just for his current term as president but also in the second term for which he is eligible, and which would begin in 2013. More important for the PML(N), or rather Nawaz and probably Shahbaz, is the lasting or otherwise of the ban on a third term as PM or CM. The only PPP member affected by this was Benazir Bhutto, twice PM, and now Qaim Ali Shah, now in his second term as Sindh CM (the first one being 1988-90, when he was Benazir Bhutto's first Sindh CM). Though it is unlikely that Nawaz will replace Gilani immediately, Nawaz is currently flavour of the month with the USA, and it is increasingly likely that he and his party would win the next election, due at the latest in the beginning of 2013. With Zardari seeking re-election from that future House, the earlier election will be seen as that much more crucial. However, apart from national and constitutional issues, the leaders also touched on a key issue, that of Balochistan. However, they refrained from any new initiative, and expressed the hope that the situation there would be solved by Parliament playing a more proactive role. Similarly, it was left to the parliamentary committee constituted for the purpose to do its work, and no constitutional initiative was agreed. In principle, the two sides agreed that they would stick together, because no one party (or institution, like the armed forces) could solve the various crises the country faced. Foremost was the War on Terror, which has both parties willing to do the American will, which is what all the talk of the militants imposing their will by bullets meant. Apart from the separate paragraph devoted to the War, there was also mention of other crises besetting the Pakistani state, and which the two leaders felt unable to handle on their own: the economic and energy crises, price hike and unemployment, which they carefully noted were 'compounded by the military dictatorship'. This acknowledgement of the real problems faced by the ordinary citizen betrayed the unease both parties feel, for these are the problems on which the next elections will be fought. While the problems faced by the citizen will only be redressed by careful government action, and will even probably be solved neither fully nor permanently, the constitutional issues are not being held back by anything except the desire of the president to hang on to the powers his office had when he was elected to it. The PML(N) hardly needs any convincing, being ready enough. As for the numbers game, constitutional amendments can be passed by no single party, but the two combined have got the numbers. However, a Constitution Amendment Bill moved by the PPP, and backed by the PML(N) would easily go through both Houses, even if the PPP's other allies were to abstain.