AIDES to President Pervez Musharraf have been holding clandestine talks with the leading political party in an effort to secure his position as President in return for diminution of his power, reports The Wall Street Journal. The current talks involve Lt-Gen Nadeem Taj, head of the Inter Services Intelligence, and close presidential aide Tariq Aziz. The two emissaries have been in regular contact with top PPP leaders, including PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari. PPP leaders have publicly declared that they are willing to have working relations with Musharraf. A close aide to Musharraf suggested the embattled leader could accept the restoration of judges fired by him during his emergency rule last year. He also is willing to agree to a constitutional change that would restrict the president's power to dismiss Parliament, the aide said. Musharraf isn't, however, prepared to relinquish his power to appoint the chiefs of the armed forces, the aide said. While the former judges would be returned, new judges appointed by Musharraf after their dismissal would be retained. The possible agreement is being hashed out in talks between presidential aides and officials of the PPP, according to a senior government official. Talks remain tentative. The PPP, the party of Benazir Bhutto, the assassinated former prime minister, leads a four-party coalition government that is working on a constitutional package that could shift the balance of power to the prime minister from the president. While another major party in the ruling alliance, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, has called for Musharraf's impeachment, the PPP has been more accommodating. A US-backed power-sharing deal between Benazir and Musharraf enabled her to return to Pakistan last year. The US has seen Musharraf as a key to stability in Pakistan. An agreement would legitimise Musharraf's present term in office. He was re-elected by an electoral college for a five-year term in October. Opponents argue it was illegal for him, as head of the armed forces, to also serve as president. Musharraf sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and dozens of judges in November and imposed a state of emergency to prevent a possible ruling against his election. He quit the army a month later. In national elections this year, after emergency rule was lifted, Musharraf's supporters in Parliament were roundly defeated. Parties led by his former opponents dominate the National Assembly. The strains between the PPP and the PML-N have given Musharraf's supporters a cause for optimism. Last week, Zardari and Nawaz agreed to restore the judges fired by Musharraf through a parliamentary resolution by May 12. But the leaders contend there are legal complications that could hamper completion of the process by then. The PML-N has threatened to quit the government if the May 12 deadline isn't implemented.