The 18th Constitutional Amendment was not just about transferring dozens of ministries and their resources to the provinces, it was also about retaining the religious character of the Constitution. It was a deal struck between the ethno-nationalists and mullahs about the future course of the country under democratic order. The question of political stability had been settled through the medieval scheme of things: the balance of power.The mullah, not necessarily the one that has laid siege on Islamabad, has to stand guard against the reformed Constitution and what it guarantees: the Parliamentary form of government led by a ‘Muslim’ member of National Assembly. The fate of both the ethnics and the religio-political clan is tied to the status-quo. If you push back the front another opens up. That is what is happening now. It also explains the dilemma of the ruling party Muslim League-N and its inaction that made that firebrand cleric to prolong his hold on Faizabad Interchange. If the signs of instability have become clear to the extent that Chinese have started worrying about their multibillion dollar investments, the reason can be sought in the varied interests of the parties to the 18th Amendment. Nawaz Sharif was keen to remove the third term bar for the premiership in order to secure the 2013 elections. The PPP just championed the cause of the smaller provinces in deleting the concurrent list to the extent that the country was transformed to an ethnic federation — the creation of any new province is a closed chapter.Nawaz Sharif’s politics had started with Punjab and he knows how to control it. He has been benefitting from the loopholes in the politico-economic system. If the winds of change had not blown — in the form of the Panama Leaks — he would not have had difficulty in augmenting his powers further in the next general elections. The Senate elections next March clearly spell his success to this end. But surely this is not what suits the interest of the other claimants to the throne: the PPP. This also holds true for the stand bearer of change: the PTI.Although Nawaz Sharif is wasting no opportunity to assure the PPP that he has stuck to the Charter of Democracy and, seems contended with the Senate in the post-2018 elections scenario, the objective conditions have made other political actors restlessApparently, Nawaz Sharif was safe in the PM House. The PPP, which he had been in league with since the singing of the Charter of Democracy (2006), had lost hope in regaining its position in South Punjab due to the ‘phenomenal’ rise of the PTI. Central and Northern Punjab have their own dynamics which the PPP is not fit to handle. The KP is an oddity for the PPP to deal with. Its trusted ally there, the ANP, still remains baffled over what it achieved through the 18th Constitutional Amendment. It simply does not know what to offer other than a new identity to the province. The more Nawaz Sharif looked unbeatable, the more the chances of success waned for the rest of the ‘democratic’ parties in the upcoming elections. Just take a back seat and cast the whole scenario in the era of the ‘balance of power’. The friends of the past were looking for a chance to pound on him and the opportunity came with the Panama Leaks. Ironically, the PTI directed its ire against Nawaz Sharif instead of the regressive system he had built through partnership with the PPP. After PTI succeeded in ousting Nawaz Sharif from the power corridors, the other stake holders of the system started to aspire for the disintegration of the PML-N.Although Nawaz Sharif is wasting no opportunity to assure the PPP that he has stuck to the Charter of Democracy and, seems contended with the Senate in the post-2018 elections scenario, these are the objective conditions that have made others restless. What if he falls short on his promises and fails to reciprocate what made his party secure a landslide victory in Punjab in 2013 elections. After all the PML-N is a political party and can decide, in case of his criminal conviction, to take full chance of the opportunity the PPP deliberately failed to avail in last general elections. That Nawaz Sharif has resumed his position as PML-N head, speaks volumes of weaknesses the PPP has in its ranks and files. That fact that it could not in nine years, restore peace to the commercial hub of the country and remained on the back foot for providing public goods to the people of Sindh is not a good indication. The real weakness of the PML-N, if any, is that it killed the spirit of devolution in Punjab.The post-devolution scenario, dominated by the signatories of the Charter of Democracy, is marked with a regressive taxation system, stalling of privatisation process, zero-progress of regional trade and rendering of regulatory regimes toothless. That the PML-N could do little to liberalise the economy, the reason might rest in PTI’s restlessness. It is also fact that it kept PPP relevant and perhaps in the lead. But if the post-devolution system has failed to deliver, who should pay the cost? Coming back to the crisis the Rizvi’s TLY has fuelled, it is wholly directed at Punjab, the real reason behind Nawaz Sharif’s hanging around the corridors of power. If the PML-N loses control over Punjab, fate is written on the walls. The party will disintegrate for sure. Punjab will be thrown to the contenders of power from within and the PPP will no longer be confronting the real threat from Sindh, the number game will throw the prize straight into its lap. What can a hung Parliament deliver?Last but not least, is that a mindboggling question: what does Khadim Rizvi and his tribe want? The answer rests with the Parliament. It must let the public know how that piece of legislation was passed, at all. The writer is Islamabad-based columnist reads in signs and narratives. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.orgPublished in Daily Times, December 4th 2017.