A few months ago, Mr. Asif Zardari (with reference to Mian Nawaz Sharif who was backing the reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges) used to say that some people were still learning politics. As he said this, he had already gone back on solemn, written agreements to reinstate the judges after the formation of the new government following the February 2008 election. Such false promises were "political moves", he had maintained. Well, now that all the judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chowdhry, have been reinstated, Mr. Zardari stands politically isolated as Mian Nawaz Sharif emerges a national leader. Mr. Sharif's strongest point in the struggle for the restoration of democracy since his return from exile was his unwavering commitment to the judges' cause, something he had placed all his party candidates under oath to remain before the elections. After the events of 15th and 16th of March this year when he defied the house arrest ban the government imposed on him and came out to lead a massive procession in Lahore in support of the lawyers' call for Long March to Islamabad that forced the hand of the government, he stands tall. Seeing the angry mood of the people and realizing the dangers involved in a direct conflict with them, the administration and the Army and Prime Minister Gilani advised Mr. Zardari to relent, enabling Mr. Gilani to announce on the national TV early morning of 16th the reinstatement of the judges to the 2nd November 2007 position, the principal demand of the lawyers. Mr. Zardari and his advisors, especially the then law minister Farooq Naek who had repeatedly stated (after some judges had been coerced into taking oath under Musharraf's PCO) that there was no question of reinstatement of the CJ. This sounded like Musharraf who said that those who had refused oath under the PCO were no more judges, bluffs that seemed laughable today as the Pakistan flag went up at Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chowdhry's official house, the national anthem playing in the background. The very simplicity and determination of Mian Nawaz Sharif's stand on the judges' issue made him a giant when the crunch came. These days, it is Mr. Zardari who looks more like a political novice than anyone else. In one year under him, the PPP has come to a divisive pass. Ms Sherry Rehman and Mian Raza Rabbani resigned from the cabinet followed by some other party stalwarts. Ms Naheed Khan and Senator Safdar Abbasi, the most trusted comrades (both eye witnesses to her assassination) of MS Benazir Bhutto, are openly bitter at the cavalier fashion with which the tragedy has been treated. A man of Aitzaz Ahsan's caliber too is all but lost to the PPP. Nevertheless, we should not read too much into the present crisis of the PPP. Mr. Gilani has of late asserted his authority as the chief executive, much to the displeasure of Mr. Zardari. But there is not much he is able to do about this irritant as Mr. Gilani has broadened his support in Parliament and the Army. Indeed, the President does not enjoy the same position in the parliament that he did when he was elected. He is not living up to the PPP's expectation or the masses' as they do not trust him any more. He is not, yet, but his style of politics of walking on the debris of broken promises has certainly damaged his political standing after the restoration of the judges. Mr. Zardari has, however, made a major blunder: Governor's rule in Punjab. After Mian Shahbaz Sharif's controversial disqualification from the Supreme Court, he had the sane option to follow the constitution but rather acted on bad advice. Grossly misreading the situation, he and Governor Taseer had hoped that PMLN MPAs would cross the floor as soon Governor's rule was imposed in the province. A month has passed; no such thing has happened. The PM says he is strongly opposed to the Governor's rule. Now that the independent minded judges have been restored, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Mian Shahbas Sharif, on a surge of national popularity, are likely to join the review proceeding of their disqualification in the Supreme Court and obtain a stay order, reverting Punjab to the pre-25 February position with Mian Shahbaz Sharif as the Chief Minister. Mr. Zardari's fate now seems linked to this issue. All indications are that the Charter of Democracy signed between the PPP and PMLN in London in the summer of 2006 is going to be revived and implemented. This means undoing the 17th amendment and Article 58 2 (b) of the constitution, and reducing the President to a figurehead as it should be in a parliamentary democracy. Will it be acceptable to Mr. Zardari? Under the circumstances this is the best deal he can expect. Otherwise, with an independent judiciary in place, he remains vulnerable.