ISLAMABAD: Has the open-heart surgery galvanised the political rigidity of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif that was his Achilles Heel in previous tenures, or is he now a born-again politician believing in big compromises based on ground realities? This question irks senior leadership of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) that itself is unsure if the government will be able to complete its five-year constitutional term, background interviews reveal. Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid however brushed aside the speculations about premature dissolution of the assemblies or any in-house change. He urged the opposition parties to wait till 2018 general elections to try their luck once again. He said that ballot not protests should decide the fate of the country. Both Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) have filed separate references in the Election Commission of Pakistan for disqualification of the prime minister. The PTI has already resolved to launch another street agitation after Eid-ul-Fitr, though it seems unlikely the PPP will join it. The jolts caused by the Panama leaks subsided with the advent of Ramazan and prime minister’s departure to London for the open-heart surgery. Extreme weather also played to the advantage of the ruling family. The PTI chairman is though keeping the issue alive through the media and random public meetings. Sources said the prime minister discussed the issue of political agitation with the top military brass at least thrice after his open-heart surgery. Unconfirmed reports also suggested a senior military official met him in London and discussed the political situation back home after enquiring after his health. Publicly, senior PML-N leaders pose to be indifferent to the upcoming political challenges. They downplay opposition’s claims that the PML-N would not complete its five-year term. If things unfold against the wishes of the ruling elite, the prime minister might consider two workable options, which he has already discussed in detail with his family members and the kitchen cabinet. First is to hold early general elections, in 2017. The second option is to get Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif elected to the National Assembly to lead the government for the remaining period. The option of early elections suits the PML-N, as none of the opposition parties is prepared enough to win a simple majority in the National Assembly. And a coalition government consisting of the PPP, PTI and other parties is equally unlikely. Sources said, provided the prime minister avails the second option, the Punjab chief minister might contest the National Assembly election from the constituency of his son Hamza Shahbaz. The son would, in turn, contest the provincial assembly election to succeed his father as the chief minister. Meanwhile, speculations about Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan refuse to die down. Despite senior party leaders’ strong reservations about him, his name is reverberating as potential replacement for Shahbaz Sharif if the latter becomes the prime minister. The chief minister is the second most popular leader in the PML-N. He also maintains friendly relations with the military establishment. However, he would never assume this responsibility unless explicitly directed by his elder brother. The family bonds are still very strong in the House of Sharifs. The sources said the option of general elections next year enticed the Sharif family, as it had already calculated that it would have more than 60 percent of chances to attain the magic number of 171 NA seats to form its government in the centre. “Yes, the prime minister can take a big decision on his return. But before doing so he wants certain guarantees,” a senior PML-N leader told Daily Times. One of the guarantees, the prime minister seeks, is that he wants the opposition to refrain from launching another protest movement. The second assurance the prime minister might demand is to get him off the hook vis-à-vis the Panama leaks. The third and probably the most important guarantee, he might seek, is that the establishment will not help either the PTI or the PPP win the next general election. If the establishment accepts his demands, the upcoming elections would be free and fair in which every political player would have a level-playing field. “So fluid is the situation that nothing can be said with any degree of certainty. Everyone is waiting to see how things will unfold. Hopefully they do in our favour,” said the PML-N leader, taking a big sigh.