RESPONDING to a call by Mian Nawaz Sharif, the business community observed a near complete shutter down in Punjab on Friday while the PML-N leader addressed a mammoth rally in Lahore where he pledged to settle the matters on the streets. Mian Nawaz accused President Zardari of violating solemn promises and stabbing him in the back while Mian Shahbaz said that the President had lost all credibility. Mian Nawaz repeatedly called on the audience to join the forthcoming march and sit-in, indicating that he was in a confrontational mode. Earlier ANP chief Asfandyar Wali and JUI-F Amir Fazlur Rehman, who are working for conciliation between the government and opposition, held a second meeting in a week with Mian Nawaz. Later, the media was told that an agreement had been reached on fundamental issues, which had triggered the present political crisis, though details remained to be worked out. The statement has aroused hopes as the two-member team had already talked to President Zardari and Prime Minister Gilani. Among the demands put up by the PML-N are the end of the Governor's rule, restoration of the remaining deposed judges and the cancellation of the 17th amendment. They also naturally want the reversal of the Supreme Court judgment disqualifying the Sharif brothers. It is still not known if the avowed agreement on fundamentals also includes the rehabilitation of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, as newspaper reports tell of the government still being reluctant to yield ground over the matter. After the rhetoric it has employed over the issue it would be difficult for the PML-N to abandon the deposed judges to their fate. No concrete measure has so far been taken by the government to reduce the political tension. With only four days left for the lawyers march to begin, political heat is bound to increase with every passing day. What is urgently needed are confidence building measures from both sides. These have to begin with the government immediately lifting the Governor's rule to be followed by de-escalation of rhetoric by the PML-N leaders. This should consequently lead to direct talks between the two sides to resolve the issues that divide them. A compromise has to be evolved before March 12. There is already a perception in the ruling coalition that the imposition of the Governor's rule was a blunder. This has even been recognized by Balochistan Chief Minister Aslam Raisani who has also demanded the reversal of the decision to disqualify the Sharifs. The confrontation with Punjab as its storm centre does not bode well for democracy or for federation. The sooner it is brought to an end the better for the country.