The brinkmanship displayed by Mian Nawaz Sharif in dashing off to Dubai to save the faltering talks with Asif Zardari may stall the fall of the shaky coalition for the time being, but it has cast serious aspersions on the credibility and dependability of his coalition partner, the co-chairperson of PPP. The manner of his leaving the country in the midst of the grave crisis that the coalition was beset with concerning the restoration of the judges in consonance with the Bhurban Declaration was reflective of the lack of importance that he accorded to either the contents of the agreement or the deadline for its implementation. It seemed as if he were living in a world of his own, coldly detached from the excruciating pain that the entire nation was undergoing in fear of the impending disaster as a consequence of a compromise of principles in tackling the situation. His two hours session with a private television channel recently helped in discovering some of the so-far undisclosed traits of Mr Zardari who is heading the largest national political party of the country through the current testing times. His reference to the Bhurban Accord, a voluntary agreement between the two principal partners of the coalition, as a 'political statement' rendered politics as a game lacking in either 'truth' or 'credibility'. In other words, politics could be interpreted as a gambit of telling lies and making false promises. I must add here that it was not a statement given under any pressure as he seemed fully in command and measured every word before delivering it. This rattling discovery is one big improvement on Machiavellian parlance itself The other gem was the utter lack of faith that he exhibited in the 'supremacy of the parliament' - a concept he has been advocating so forcefully ever since the results of the last elections have been known. Responding to a question regarding Dr A. Q. Khan, Mr Zardari said that he was neither responsible for having arrested him nor interested in getting involved in setting him free. "It is a matter that rests with the presidency', Mr Zardari asserted. In other words, in the case of Dr A. Q. Khan, the supremacy of the parliament has been rendered subservient to the over-riding will of one individual. What an incredible fall from grace of an institution which is home to the aspirations of a nation that has been deceived time and again by racketeers of all hues and shapes Throughout the interview, Mr Zardari seemed deeply consumed with his personal sufferance at the hands of the judiciary and he hardly made an effort to hide his seething bitterness towards some of its erstwhile members. The sarcasm that he so disdainfully lavished at the 30 days deadline and the possible adverse prospects thereafter if the judges were not restored was a rare act to watch It was like he was out on a revenge course and showed unwillingness to go along with the reinstatement of the judges as on November 2. He was insistent that the judges who had taken oath on the PCO would not be disturbed even if the 'sacked' judges were restored under some form of arrangement with his coalition partners. Little moral, even legal fibre was on display as Mr. Zardari propounded this half-baked and injudicious argument repeatedly that, inter-alia, attempted to erase any distinction between conscientious members of the judiciary who showed courage in refusing to take oath under the unconstitutional and illegal PCO promulgated by the then Chief of Army Staff and those who succumbed to the wiles of the dictator and the temptation of sitting on the benches of the superior courts under a self-confessed unconstitutional act. Returning to the dance enacted in Dubai, the best that can be expected of the protracted parleys, stretching to over four painful days, is a mid-course compromise along the lines that the judges would be restored subject to the promulgation of a person-specific judicial package that would proceed to substantially clip the wings of the judiciary. It is reported that the package envisages a fixed tenure for the Chief Justice, imposes curbs on his suo motu powers and his prerogative to constitute benches to deal with various pending cases and increases the retirement age of SC judges to 68. Notwithstanding the merits or otherwise of the intended package, its initiation at a time that has already witnessed the public reneging on the voluntary agreement between the coalition partners is bound to cast aspersions on the credibility of any fresh document that is proposed to the people. In an environment characterised by minimal level of trust in the leadership, what is the guarantee that this new undertaking by the coalition partners would not be rubbished in the future as another 'political statement', or sacrificed at the altar of an arrangement with the former military ruler via the inimitable NRO? It would have been immensely wiser to de-link the restoration of the judges from the judicial package, both in terms of intent and timing. A separate committee should have been constituted, with representation from the legal community, to deliberate the contours of the proposed judicial package and its presentation before the Parliament after achieving due consensus among all stakeholders. Under the present times, already vitiated beyond possible repair by an inordinate and ill-advised procrastination on the restoration of judges issue, consensus does not seem to be a prospect and a large-scale opposition to the proposed package is on the cards. This is hardly a good omen for the fledgling coalition that has yet to assimilate the mammoth task that lies ahead in shape of tackling the grave problems that the country is confronted with. This state is a direct consequence of an unholy marriage between a once credible political force and a military junta for the sake of winning a patently personal reprieve in the name of 'democracy' and 'reconciliation'. While no amount of sarcasm can cast aspersions on the heroic struggle waged by the members of the legal fraternity for turning the tide and raising the hope for the introduction of the rule of law in the country, corrective initiatives would be needed from the political leadership by way of restoring the confidence of the people in its hitherto errant ways. The looming tragedy is that little substantial by way of constitutionality, legality and rule of law can be expected of a leadership that owes its own existence to a piece of black legislation - the widely-despised and grossly self-serving National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) E-mail: raoofhasan@hotmail.com