A way forward.

The Punjab Assembly has finally been dissolved and the KP Assembly is the next to go. The development has set in motion the process of elections in the two provinces. That brings a shaky coalition government at the centre, with its razor-thin majority in a truncated National Assembly, under further pressure. The options for the ruling alliance are running out. The endgame has begun.

It all started last week, with the PTI-PML-Q government winning the vote of confidence in the Punjab Assembly. It came as a shock to the PML-N, which till the last moment, was expecting some defections within the provincial government's ranks. That did not happen. The PML-N lost the game of snakes and ladders. Another setback for the party came when the wily Punjab Chief Minister Parvez Elahi dissolved the provincial assembly against all expectations.

In this situation, the PML-N has been left with no other choice but to prepare for elections in the province that are to be held within three months. Imran Khan is also planning to take the battle to Islamabad. He has hinted at his party returning to the National Assembly and forcing the prime minister to take a vote of confidence.

While another U-turn, it would be yet a shrewd move by the former prime minister, given the coalition government's vulnerabilities. Khan, belatedly, seems to have realised that abstention from the National Assembly could keep his party out of the process of forming the caretaker government for the coming general elections.

The lame-duck administration is unable to take the tough decisions needed.

But the return will not be that smooth as the PTI legislators in the House had submitted their resignations. It is apparent that Khan's decision to go back to the Assembly is not to break the political deadlock and help draw up a mechanism for the elections but to bring down the PDM government.

Meanwhile, with some reports of possible defections in PML-N ranks, it could be a serious challenge for the prime minister to prove his majority. The Punjab debacle certainly has had a demoralising effect on the party though the leadership has put on a brave face. Even if the prime minister manages to scrape through the confidence vote, the rulers' capacity to govern has been seriously hampered.

With two major provinces going into election mode and the entire focus on the coming provincial polls, it would make it extremely difficult for the centre to govern. It is unprecedented that elections would be...

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