ISLAMABAD: The announcement of former president Asif Ali Zardari to become member of the National Assembly guarantees one thing – successful conclusion of five-year term of the current assemblies. Though he promised to put an end to the “Mughal emperor” rule in the country, his decision would be interpreted as offering a helping hand to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who has been mired in one controversy after another. While his son was thundering all along to launch a countrywide movement if the government did not fulfil the so-called four demands, the former president has dampened the hopes of anti-Nawaz forces, which wanted his premature and disgraceful exit. Major shake-up in the army, the Supreme Court’s decision to hear the Panama scandal afresh and disorientation in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) provided the prime minister relief he could not expect a few months ago. After late Farooq Leghari, Zardari would be the second former president who would choose to become an MNA. Leghari had successfully contested the 2002 general election under the tutelage of General (r) Musharraf. Some cynics believe both gentlemen damaged the Pakistan People’s Party in their own way. The departure of ex-president Zardari from Pakistan, in June 2015, was generally viewed as an aftermath of his hard-hitting speech against the military leadership. A series of events following his utterances proved his apprehensions to be true. A money laundering controversy involving Ayyan Ali surfaced, his close friend Dr Asim Hussain was arrested and targeted actions in Karachi intensified. The day the former president arrived in Karachi, last week, raids were conducted on the offices of his friend Anwar Majeed. Was that a mere coincidence or the powers-that-be were conveying him a direct message? The former president had, perhaps, taken the message seriously and, therefore, brought the issue of Kashmir in the opening lines of his much-awaited speech. Now Zardari announced he would contest the by-election from Nawabshah, the seat to be vacated by his sister Dr Azra Fazal Pechuho. She had won the constituency by obtaining 113,199 votes, or 57 percent of the total votes polled. And Bilawal Bhutto Zardari would contest from Larkana, the seat to be vacated by Muhammad Ayaz Soomro. Soomro obtained 50,128 votes, or 41 percent of the total votes polled. From the date of resignations of both Dr Pechuho and Soomro, the Election Commission would take two months to organise the by-elections. So, the father-son duo may join the opposition benches by March, just three months before the PML-N would present its final budget. One wonders if Syed Khurshid Shah would continue to act as leader of the opposition in the National Assembly. And what odds young Bilawal would face under the constant tutorship of his father? It would be interesting to watch those crooked advisers who were reportedly trying to create a wedge between the father and his son in the past. In his recent meeting, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain advised the former president to launch a massive campaign in Punjab. Zardari sounded non-committal. Perhaps, he would test the waters first. He is expected to arrive in Islamabad in the first week of January. Insiders say Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has already offered an olive branch to Zardari. As part of their tactic understanding, a high-profile political prisoner might be released anytime soon. If this exactly is the case, the rhetoric would not turn into actions. In the last leg of the current assembly’s tenure, the public would witness a lot of saber-rattling (in the air).