LESS than six weeks after forming a widely hailed coalition, the PPP and PML(N) have fallen apart. The PML(N) is likely to pull its nominees out of the federal cabinet while trying to keep the coalition intact in Punjab. The coalition's opponents are predicting that the two parties would soon revert to their favourite game of no-holds-barred struggles against each other. The break-up has however been without acrimony, with both sides promising that this would not push them into confrontation. Mr Zardari has told a private TV channel his party would not let the PML(N)-led coalition government in Punjab become unstable. Kh Asif has assured that, despite bidding farewell to the federal cabinet, his party would sit on the Treasury benches and support the government on an issue-to-issue basis. Mr Rahman Malik has expressed confidence that the PML(N) would soon return to the fold of the coalition and its portfolios would meanwhile be kept vacant. There is a perception that once the two sides have enlisted the support of new allies, it may not take them long to turn into fire-spitting opponents. There are reports of the President's camp being engaged in an exercise of political engineering aimed at reconditioning the PML-Q to make it acceptable to Mr Zardari. The talks by Prime Minister Gilani with members of the PML-Q engaged in forming a forward bloc are likely to be interpreted as a complementary move in the direction. The assurance held out by him, to be available in Lahore for two days a week, would create a perception that it might only be a matter of days before the PPP begins overtures to form its own government in the province. The talks failed because, despite the lip service paid to the restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary, the PPP leadership was in fact opposed to the reinstatement of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry. While it roped in the PML(N) to face the challenges no single party can meet alone, it should have understood that the latter was committed to implement the Bhurban Declaration within the period specified in the document. Mian Nawaz Sharif too should have realised that the restoration of judges, vital as it is, was not the only item on the agenda of the coalition and that he is experienced enough to know that in politics timeframes are rarely met in the strictest of terms. The two mainstream parties cannot afford to part ways at a time when the country faces economic and social issues of great magnitude including unprecedented fuel and food prices, water and power shortages, law and order situation and the need to return to genuine democracy with the elected government enjoying full powers. A PPP administration depending on discredited elements of the previous PML-Q-led coalition will lack the credibility and moral authority to resolve these issues. Similarly, the PML-N should be ready to adopt a flexible attitude lest it is accused of rigidity at the cost of democracy.