THE continuing impasse over the reinstatement of the deposed judges has started generating fears that the ruling coalition may break up, coming as a huge disappointment to the people, who had hoped that the new democratic dispensation would establish the rule of law and mitigate their sufferings. The rumours doing the rounds that PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari may use the option of advising the dissolution of the National Assembly is most distressing. True, he doesn't want to join hands with the PML-Q because of the excesses committed against his party workers over the past five years. But then it is all the more important to keep the coalition intact and avoid dithering about his promise to restore the judiciary to the pre-November 3 position in accordance with the Bhurban Declaration. Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani's observation notwithstanding, that the judges' issue has stuck in modalities, it transpired from the last round of London talks between Mian Shahbaz Sharif and Mr Zardari's aides that the status of PCO judges remained a major sticking point. An outlandish idea has been in the air that those who took oath under the PCO should be retained as ad hoc judges while reinstating those who were sacked on November 3. It would be tantamount to legitimizing those members of the superior judiciary who were appointed in blatant violation of the Constitution rather than those unconstitutionally removed. Mian Shahbaz rejected the suggestion because he knew that it would be perceived as an attempt to validate the Proclamation of Emergency and other illegal actions taken by General Musharraf. The PML-N cannot be blamed for trying to back off from the mutually agreed position. Surely there was no such commitment that those illegally appointed by the President would be treated in this fashion. Now that the PPP leadership insists on reinstating the deposed judges through an Act of Parliament it should not forget that there was no such clause in the Bhurban Declaration to which it promises to continue to stick. Mian Nawaz has meanwhile rejected the argument that the United States is opposed to the reinstatement of the deposed judges because of the suspicion that Chief Justice Chaudhry is sympathetic towards militants. He would, however, do well to explain the purpose of his and Mr Zardari's meetings with Mr Boucher and other foreign dignitaries during their stay in London. In the meantime, it is disturbing to find the ruling coalition failing to meet the May 12 deadline. The day coincides with the first anniversary of the Karachi mayhem, triggered by the previous Sindh Government's refusal to let the deposed Chief Justice address the High Court Bar Association. The ruling leadership must rise to the occasion, lest the nation should feel betrayed once again.