The fact that the coalition has collapsed is a testament to a trail of betrayals crafted and directed by the NRO-benefited PPP leadership. From the Murree Accord to the statement Mr Zardari signed on August 7 with Nawaz Sharif to restore the judiciary to its pre-November 3 position immediately after General Musharraf was either impeached or he resigned, to his declaration that his hands were tied because of assurances that had been elicited from him by the powers which had extended help in securing the resignation from the former dictator, to his reported lackadaisical expression of a lack of trust in agreements and understandings with other political parties, it makes for a sordid saga of betrayals with the sole intent of getting a grip on all fountains of power in the country. It is now topped by the fact that he is the official PPP candidate to be President of Pakistan. Not that much was expected of the person of Mr Zardari in the first place as, for all the years that he has been on the national scene, he has been riddled with serious charges. Relinquishing all its democratic pretensions, it required the PPP to resort to an undemocratic embrace with the former dictator and the subsequent promulgation of the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) to enable him to win immunity from prosecution regarding numerous cases inside and outside the country. Besides other factors, that may also explain his deep-rooted antipathy towards the institution of an independent and proactive judiciary in Pakistan. What amazes one is the ease with which he was able to convince the coalition partners of his 'sincerity' in restoring the judiciary and initiating steps for the advent of a democratic polity in the country. Even when he somersaulted to putting the impeachment of General Musharraf ahead of the restoration of judiciary, he was able to carry the coalition partners along, most notably PML-N. Is this a testament more to his craftiness or to others' excessive gullibility? Whatever it may be, it has put the country on the verge of regressing into the self-defeating political feuds reminiscent of the ugly nineties. Of all the 'wise' things that the frontrunner to the president's office has enlightened the nation with, the most dangerous is his avowed inability to conform to the written text of the documents that he signed jointly with Mian Nawaz on the pretext that he was obliged to make certain concessions to forces, both inside and outside the country, in his bid to secure resignation from the former dictator. Obviously, he is referring to the army as the 'force inside the country' and the United States and its allies as the 'force outside the country'. While negotiating with the high command of the army remains highly objectionable irrespective of the fact that the person being relieved of the charge may have been one of its former commanders, it is the accountability before the 'outside force' that is tantamount to a confession of having jeopardised the sovereignty of the country. What has the US or its allies to do with General Musharraf being removed from office? What are their stakes and what is the rationale behind their endeavour to intervene in a matter that is entirely Pakistan's own? And, most important of all, what were the compulsions that forced Mr Zardari to capitulate with regard to the restoration of the judiciary even when he had the numbers to do the job? This takes one back to the time when the same forces came to PPP's rescue in arranging a rapprochement with General Musharraf. Is it payback time for Mr. Zardari? The recent story published by The Financial Times is further cause for concern. Then the reported release of millions of dollars by the Swiss government in assets belonging to Mr Zardari raises potential question marks about the source of such huge deposits. The funds were released as a consequence of the Pakistani attorney general notifying the Swiss that he was no longer investigating Mr Zardari.  The Swiss action came as a shock to Danial Devaud, the judge in Geneva who originally investigated the charges. He is reported to have said that the release of funds should not be interpreted as a sign of Mr Zardari's innocence. The recent administration of fresh oath to eight judges of the Sindh High Court, held back earlier on of the insistence of Nawaz Sharif, is further proof of the lack of sincerity of the PPP leadership in restoring the judiciary. The decision of the lawyer fraternity to re-start agitation, as a result of a sequence of broken commitments by the lead partner in the former coalition, may impact the events significantly in the coming days. On the one hand, it would reflect the continuation of the struggle by the members of the legal community and the civil society to release the country effectively from the visible and invisible clutches of dictatorship while, on the other hand, it would be a test for the political dispensation with regard to methods it uses to quell the agitation. It is feared that the policy of divide-and-rule that the PPP leadership has so far followed will be reinforced coupled with an immoral and arbitrary use of the state authority to quell the rising tide of unrest against their unprincipled and undemocratic policies. The promises made by Mr Zardari to powers that helped him in his personal battle to win indemnity from cases are decisively more important than the promises he makes with his coalition partners. In other words, his personal interest is the dominant force behind all decision-making even if such decisions are at the cost of the supreme national interest. The writer is a media and political consultant based in Islamabad E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com