The PPP is reported to have asked the PML-Q to join the government at the centre. The much-publicised meeting held last week in Lahore between the presidential hitman Babar Awan and senior PML-Q leader Pervaiz Elahi is said to be a public display of a process that has been underway for sometime now, but outside the media glare. Other than a rhetorical pronouncement of cooperating in national interest, the leaders had little else to tell us about the agenda of their contacts, raising questions once again about the so-called policy of reconciliation pursued by the Zardari-led PPP. The high-sounding policy has actually reduced politics to opportunistic power games and debased the very concept of reconciliation. After emerging as the single largest political party in the 2008 elections, the PPP had the perfect opportunity to steer the dirtied game of politics in Pakistan in a positive direction. High on the Charter of Democracy, the second largest party PML-N was in a supportive mood. The success of ANP in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa further indicated the clear mandate for change reflected in the 2008 elections that the party contested in opposition to Musharrafs allies. The alliance of the three was logical and when it was announced soon after the election results, it was viewed as a good beginning for democratic governance. But instead of reconciling a history of political differences with its logical partners, Asif Zardari did not waste much time and brought in the staunchest of Musharrafs allies, MQM and JUI-F, to the government fold under the banner of reconciliation. At that time, the staunch PPP supporters were heard saying what a master stroke Zardari had played on the slippery pitch of Pakistani politics. According to them, he had cut the PML-N down to size, as with these new and strange bedfellows, the PPP government would not depend on the support of its biggest coalition partner to stay in power. They were happy that it would reduce the negotiating power of the PML-N within the coalition and reduce its 'nuisance value. Other than the fact that such a view of political accommodation within a coalition was not only distorted, but also misdirected, it did not seem to matter to both the PPP supporters and leaders that the move could vitiate the reconciliatory and upbeat mood tangible among the existing coalition partners. And that it did. The PML-N has come a long way from being a coalition partner, its partymen taking oath as Cabinet members from Musharraf with black bands tied to their arms, to the no-holds-barred attack on President Zardari and some of the PPP ministers. The two largest parties in Parliament seem to be headed for the kind of mud-slinging matches that they indulged in the last time they competed for power, stooping down to the kind of politics that they swore to move on from when they signed the Charter of Democracy. This is disappointing considering the good start they took after the 2008 elections. Their political tone and the mutual respect they showered on each other seem like a dream already, and it is hardly a couple of years ago that we witnessed such good behaviour. So, can we say that the policy of reconciliation championed by Asif Zardari and parroted by his loyalists has actually failed? The problem with the kind of reconciliation followed by the Zardari-led PPP is that it is not founded on any political ideals or notions of larger good accrued from sorting out the differences. The basis of reconciliation is the pieces of the power-pie that are thrown at the political parties willing to join a government whose only political goals appear to be a perpetuation of the politics of status quo and the position of the PPP at the top of this stinking heap. So, while political issues that need ironing out stay where they are, agreements are reached on sharing of Cabinet posts and other spoils of being in government. The recent meeting between PPP and PML-Q that is supposed to further the agenda of reconciliation is another piece of the same puzzle. The PPP had made similar moves when it sacked the Shahbaz Sharif government through its Governor Salman Taseer, hoping to form a government with the PML-Q in Punjab. And according to inside sources as reported in the media, a similar agreement seems to be on the reconciliation-table this time. At the centre, the PPP government seems to be creating space for itself in the face of mounting criticism by the MQM and the possibility that it might leave the coalition government. It is a sign of poverty of the so-called policy of reconciliation that even after being together in coalition at the Centre and in Sindh, the PPP and MQM have not managed to sort out the issues between them. But then, obviously, the reconciliation process had more to do with sharing power than any higher political goals of building trust among political players and agreeing to some basic rules of the game. It would have been a great achievement even if the three parties that had agreed to form a coalition in 2008, had managed to reconcile their differences and create a mutually agreed roadmap for democracys future, a roadmap that could lead to the creation of a truly democratic polity and better governance. Such reconciliation would have been not only achievable, but also meaningful. Clarity and resolve on the part of the three original coalition partners could have set the agenda of reconciliation with the opposition parties. After all, asking everyone to come ride the government bandwagon can never be the objective of the reconciliation process. In fact, it is important to create a civilised culture of government-opposition relations, something that the PPP reconciliation policy seems to be militating against. A successful reconciliation policy should have brought the political temperature down, creating stability and dialogue as a way to move forward. The Zardari brand of reconciliation has produced the opposite effect, pushing politics back to intrigues behind closed doors and balancing acts for the perpetuation of personal interests. Perhaps, that is what it was meant for regardless of its misleading name. The writer is a freelance columnist.