After three days of hectic consultations the ruling coalition's major partners let the nation heave a subdued sigh of relief by deciding to first impeach the president and then restore the judges. Mian Nawaz Sharif simply played out his vengeance against Musharraf for dismissing "my elected government" by agreeing to a proposal for impeachment proceedings to precede the reinstatement of deposed judges. And he did so when he was in a position to persuade the PPP to first sort out the judges' issue. There is no doubt that the ruling coalition can easily get half of the National Assembly members to move a resolution of impeachment. Similarly, it would have no problem preparing a charge sheet against the president to meet the requirements of the Article 47 of the constitution. Musharraf is a fit case for impeachment. But for the motion to go through, the coalition will have to work really hard to attain two-thirds strength in a joint session of the two houses of parliament. It might turn out to be a difficult target to achieve since the Presidency is expected to unleash the shadowy intelligence operatives to thwart the move. Musharraf is obviously worried. The indication came when he cancelled his visit to China and decided to stay back to rally his forces. And the days to come will see him lean heavily on the unscrupulous Gujrati 'operators who made fortunes under his patronage'. The two were the worst things to have happened to this beleaguered country. Musharraf abrogated the constitution, held the nation over the barrel for eight years, put curbs on the media, suppressed dissent through a series of unconstitutional acts and dismantled the judiciary when it was about to give verdict against his eligibility to contest for the office of president. The Q-League's supine leadership silently watched him subject the country to the worst repression it ever witnessed under any previous military ruler. They acted as partners in crime. February 18 raised hope for Pakistan's return to democracy after Musharraf's political allies were beaten at the polls comprehensively. The two mainstream parties routed the quislings. It came as a revenge on all those who sided with the most destructive dictatorship that brought the country to a turbulent pass. At the same time it was a reminder to mainstream parties to adhere to the Charter of Democracy, which had provided them a common agenda for re-establishing the rule of law by repealing the arbitrary amendments in the constitution made by the Musharraf dispensation that had changed its federal parliamentary character. Besides that, growing poverty, galloping unemployment, rising inflation and threats to our sovereignty were among the monumental challenges they were supposed to meet. But they remained completely bogged down for four months in the judges issue and also failed to resolve their differences over Musharraf's future. Mr Zardari was seen dragging his feet on the commitment that formed the basis of the Bhurban Declaration. Perhaps the mere thought of seeing Mr Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry back on the Bench and striking down the so-called National Reconciliation Ordinance would give him nightmares. It was this fear that prevented him from conceding the PML-N demand for restoring the judiciary to the pre-November 3 status. And this is where he played a trick on his coalition partners by convincing them to first get rid of Musharraf and then deal with the judges issue. Maybe he understands that the president's impeachment, that seems easier said than done, will keep the PML-N on tenterhooks and leave it with no excuse for not rejoining the federal government and sharing with the PPP the blame for its misgovernance. Mian Nawaz and his aides simply walked into this trap. And they did so when they could have easily forced the PPP leadership to first reinstate the deposed judges after getting delayed the notification for the re-appointment of the eight Sindh High Court judges. There is little reason to get carried away by such observations that Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani was dodged into signing a summary and forwarding it to the president for assent. Rather it smacks of covert understanding between the PPP leadership and General Musharraf. The aim obviously was to deal a deathblow to the lawyers' movement. But Mian Nawaz and his aides failed to take advantage by not hammering a point that if the eight SHC judges could be reinstated through a Law Ministry's notification then there could be no hitch in the reinstatement of the rest of the sacked judges through an executive order. That could have spared the coalition an extra effort it will now have to make to oust Musharraf. Musharraf is too stubborn to step down voluntarily. It is going to be a test for the elected representatives to avoid succumbing to political expediency and oust the man who had played havoc with the country. Not doing so will demonstrate sheer disrespect to the public mandate, carrying bad omens for their parliamentary prospects in the future. E-mail: sarmad@nation.com.pk