The Supreme Court decision of February 25 announcing the ineligibility of Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif to contest elections and the subsequent imposition of the Governor rule in the Punjab have pushed the country deeper into turmoil and instability. The nation is again in the grip of a countrywide agitation spearheaded by PML(N) whose leadership has accused President Zardari of complicity in the Supreme Court decision with the objective of dislodging the PML(N)-led government from power in the Punjab. It has also been alleged that the main motive behind this move was to prevent the Punjab government from offering any support to the Long March planned by the lawyers for the restoration of the superior judiciary unconstitutionally deposed by Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007. The reluctance of President Zardari and the PPP to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges of the superior judiciary to their rightful positions, for whatever reasons, is well-known. It is ironical that, on the one hand, the PPP acknowledges the illegality of the steps taken by Pervez Musharraf on November 3, 2007 in his capacity as the chief of the army staff to sack a large number of the judges of the Supreme and High Courts in blatant violation of the constitution, but, on the other hand, has been relying on lame excuses to reverse those steps. Instead it has resorted to a policy of pick-and-choose in restoring those judges. No wonder that the overwhelming majority of the lawyers supported by the civil society and several political parties continues to agitate for the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other judges through a simple reversal of the illegal steps taken by Pervez Musharraf which have no value in law. The national elections of February last year provided an overwhelming mandate for a fundamental change of Pervez Musharraf's flawed policies which had brought the country to the brink of disaster. The genesis of the latest crisis lies in the inability or unwillingness of the PPP-led government at the centre to implement that mandate. President Zardari has repeatedly reneged on his commitments and promises to restore Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry who, because of his bold stand against a military dictator, has become the symbol of an independent judiciary. The federal government has also failed so far to make a move for the repeal of the 17th amendment which had concentrated powers in the hands of the president at the expense of the prime minister and the Parliament in deviation from the recognised norms of a parliamentary form of government. Similarly one hardly sees any change in the internal and external policies of the government. The present government at the centre, therefore, appears to be a continuation of Musharraf's rule. The only conclusion that one can draw is that the establishment has succeeded in thwarting the popular mandate given by the people of Pakistan at the last general elections for the restoration of the judiciary and the rectification of the damage that Pervez Musharraf had inflicted upon the constitution and the system of parliamentary government for self-perpetuation in power. It is nothing less than a tragedy of historic proportions that President Zardari and his close advisers have turned the PPP, which had been founded on a revolutionary and democratic programme wedded to public welfare and the fight against the oppression and exploitation of the downtrodden, into a status quo party upholding the excesses committed against the judiciary, infringements of the constitution and the parliamentary form of government, and the present oppressive and exploitative system in the country. And all this just for the purpose of remaining in power and enriching oneself further If this is not true, one may ask what has prevented the president and his supporters from getting rid of the objectionable elements of the 17th amendments on which there is virtually a national consensus. If this is not true, why hasn't the judiciary been restored as repeatedly promised by President Zardari? If this is not true, why are the people still suffering from the injustices and the excesses of the elite of the country? If this is not true, why hasn't even a single step been taken for the reform of the exploitative and oppressive system prevalent in the country? Why are the rich getting richer while the poor find it difficult to make both ends meet? The answer is simple: the greed for power and wealth has overtaken the ideals on which the PPP had been founded. It was hoped that both the PPP and PML(N) had learnt the right lessons from their mistakes and fights of the 1990's which ultimately led to the military takeover by Pervez Musharraf. (This is not to deny that military takeovers are unjustifiable under any circumstances and the military governments, on balance, have caused enormous damage to the country.) Both the parties, after the general elections of the last year, initially made the right moves in deciding to work together for the good of the country in an atmosphere of mutual harmony. These moves were generally welcomed by all and sundry in the country. The PPP-PML(N) partnership was also the compulsion of the divided mandate given by the people in the last general elections as a result of which neither party was able to form a government on its own at the centre or in the Punjab. But the situation changed radically when the PPP refused to honour its commitment to restore the illegally deposed judges on flimsy grounds. The PPP has also dragged its feet unnecessarily on getting rid of the 17th amendment. The disqualification of the Sharif brothers and the imposition of the Governor rule in the Punjab proved to be the proverbial last straw on the camel's back. Thus, even though the PML(N) may have made its own share of mistakes, the PPP must shoulder the main blame for the break-up of the PPP-PML(N) coalition. It seems that we simply don't learn from history Considering the serious internal and external challenges facing the country, it should be obvious even to the imbecile that the current wrangling between the PPP and the PML(N) is unacceptable from the point of view of the nation's security, political stability and economic well being. The two parties must remember that those who do not learn from their past, are condemned to relive it. They must avoid crossing the Rubicon in their statements and actions, and work for mutual understanding and reconciliation instead of choosing the path of confrontation. The requirement of the time is a compromise which meets the legitimate concerns and expectations of the two parties without sacrificing the principles of the supremacy of the constitution, the rule of law, a parliamentary democracy and an independent judiciary. The Governor rule in the Punjab, for which there was no constitutional justification in the first place, must be lifted immediately to enable the Provincial Assembly to elect the new chief minister without resorting to horse trading. Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other illegally deposed judges must be restored forthwith. A way should be found to bring the Sharif brothers back into the electoral politics as it is unrealistic to expect political calm and harmony while the top two leaders of the second biggest political party in the country are excluded from playing their rightful role in politics. Finally, a constitutional amendment bill should be moved expeditiously in the Parliament for getting rid of the objectionable elements of the 17th amendment with a view to rectifying the balance of power between the president, on the one hand, and the Parliament and the prime minister, on the other. These moves should be accompanied by an assurance that the PPP government at the centre would be allowed to complete its five-year tenure to be judged by the people at the next general elections. The failure of the political parties, especially the PPP and the PML(N), to reach an agreement on these lines would keep the country politically destabilised with serious adverse consequences for its economic well being and security. The writer is a retired ambassador E-mail: