ISLAMABAD - Premier Nawaz Sharif was visibly a happy man. Perhaps for the first time since taking oath, he could be seen wearing a broad smile as he braced Mamnoon Hussain, a man of his choice to be the next head of the state, in the National Assembly Hall declared a polling station for Tuesday's Presidential election. Last time, Sharif had the honour of electing Rafiq Tarar as President. But that decision was mainly attributed to his late father Mian Sharif and circle of advisors. 

Mamnoon is one hundred per cent Sharif's choice. Tailor-made to sit in the Presidency to guard PML-N government's interests when Sharif is Chief Executive of the country. Submissive, obedient, tactful and loyalist - the President-elect has all the qualities Sharif could look for. To top it all, the Premier and President-elect have some common likings for Desi food stuff and sweet dishes. Their common taste, cronies believe, will go a long way in a healthy working relationship between the powerful Premier and tactful President.

The outgoing President Asif Zardari was a different mold. As a powerful head of the ruling party, he had opted to step in to the shoes of former President Musharraf as a powerful president. Though some critics strongly feel he should have opted for premiership instead. But shrewd advisors wanted him to play the role of a party elder, take credit of the achievements and reprimand premiers and ministers for all the ills. The whole scheme of things worked to some extent. But in the crunch time, Zardari could not lead the party due to bindings imposed on him as head of the state, weeks before the general elections. Inability, security concerns or differences kept his son and party Chairman Bilawal Bhutto away from electioneering. As a result, it was all lost in 2013 what appeared a "win win" in the beginning on year 2008. Bindings of the Charter of Democracy forced Zardari to relinquish powers through the 18th amendment.

As Zardari took credit for this 'voluntary' gesture, his political friends and foes were in no doubt, he would not let these powers go if circumstances had permitted? Still a shrewd politician in Zardari did let it go riding a "democratic" moral high ground. He knew is his heart of hearts that as defacto head of the ruling party he would be calling the shots from presidency, and prime minister of the day will act just like a puppet. It didn't matter whether it was Gilani or Raja. No one in the inner Zardari circle would differ, that the PPP strong man really ruled the roost during the days and months of PPP in power. A provincial bureaucrat to a federal minister was routed and guided through presidency.

Sharif is a different mold. Unlike Zardari, he doesn't have to hide behind the premier to assert powers. As Chief Executive of the country and head of his party he can exercise powers to a maximum extent. Every major move he makes in governance and politics could make or break his polity and party. Perhaps in this state of mind, he chose Mamnoon. Aides say the man from Karachi was in his mind, may be months before his May election victory. Some Sharif aides claim, the man from Karachi is tailor-made to sit in the presidency when Sharif is Chief Executive of the country. The short-listing of six heavyweights, including Mamnoon, was just a formality. That was why the list was reduced to three and then only Mamnoon and party Secretary General Iqbal Jhagra, his covering candidate, were left as finalists who were asked to submit their nomination papers. Senator Jhagra, a hopeful for KPK governorship, had to withdraw on the last day.

Though very little is known about the skills of Mamnoon in statecraft, as head of the State he can efficiently guard rear of the though the exercise cost him a minor political jolt as PPP quit the electoral process. The political embarrassment of eating words regarding MQM and sending effective second in command Ishaq Dar and company to visit Altaf Bhai's Azizabad bastion to seek votes for Mamnoon was a bit big ask. Seeking MQM vote would have been on the cards for any ruling party candidate. But in the absence of a PPP candidate, a reasonable number of votes from Sindh assembly was what the ruling party was eyeing, and got in the end. The political dent of this exercise could go in favour of Imran Khan's PTI in the days and months to come. For now the Khan is back to his usual aggressive mode as the important by-elections are just around the corner, especially in Punjab and KPK. A one-on-one competition is expected between the ruling PML-N and PTI with PPP still trying to make up when performance of the past five years haunts it day in and day out. Change of Presidential election dates gave the party some breathing space to agitate against the ruling party and judiciary -- read it as preparations for agitation for post September 8 days and weeks when Presidential immunity for Zardari ends with expiration of his term.

So, just when everyone thought Presidential elections will be a routine and boring, affair. It has brought something for everyone across the treasury opposition divide to cheer. Thanks to the religious quest for treasury members (more importantly premier's religious sojourn) that got swift judicial approval and resultant change of dates to hold the elections a week prior to what was announced earlier. For now, the new premier has got Mamnoon Hussain, nothing more.

The defeated PPP under the outgoing President Asif Zardari got something to agitate in a new found, God gifted opposition role. Still, it isn't more than a morale booster. And Iman Khan has got his political form back. Fresh from a European visit and largely healed from his pre-election injury, his supporters, the Insafiyans, have got their firebrand leader with them. And the leader had the guts to announce recently he also wanted to boycott the presidential elections, but his party candidate persuaded him otherwise. Remember, this winter Imran had wanted to be part of Dr Tahirul Qadri's bandwagon to sabotage the electoral process. At that time, his party stalwarts, wanted otherwise. On both the occasions, the partymen didn't want to toe line of their great leader. On their part, subdued and pushed to the wall Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) have got the treasury benches up for grab. Likewise, Maulana Fazlur Rehman is back to business through his time tested bargaining skills. His party is all set to be part of the government coalition through some lucrative ministry. Chairmanship of Kashmir committee will also do....