IT was good to hear from Mian Nawaz Sharif that after quitting the federal cabinet, the PML(N) would not become part of any conspiracy to destabilize the system. The decision came after the coalition failed to meet the May 12 deadline set for the reinstatement of the deposed judges. "I feel sorry that the judges issue remained mired in discussions and debates," the PML(N) leader told a crowded press conference after presiding over a meeting of the party's central working committee and parliamentary group. Mian Nawaz's commitment to continue to back the PPP government was reciprocated by Asif Zardari who told a news channel that except for the Finance Ministry other cabinet posts given up by the PML(N) Ministers would remain vacant and 'we'll wait for them to come back.' This is a positive sign that must have disappointed General Musharraf's allies who have been desperately waiting for the coalition to fall apart and create a political space for them to get back into power. Some members of the former ruling coalition met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani in Lahore the other day while the PPP and the PML(N) leaderships were holding crucial talks in London. Perhaps the PPP leadership is aware that joining hands with the PML(Q) would be disastrous. And so would be its dithering about restoring the judiciary to the November 3 status in the light of the Bhurban Declaration. The party therefore termed the PML(N)'s decision to quit the cabinet 'only a pause in the process and not a break' with Farhatullah saying that Mr Zardari would return home in a couple of days and resume dialogue with Mian Nawaz over the judges issue. But he gave no explanation about how to resolve the main sticking point of retaining the judges who took oath under the November 3 PCO. Mr Zardari meanwhile made it clear that his party would remain part of the present Punjab coalition. The PML(N) leadership also knows well that it can't rule the province without the PPP's support. This shows that both Mr Zardari and Mian Nawaz understand that their failure to hold the coalition together will adversely affect their credibility among the people who had voted them into power to rid the country of major crises, including unchecked inflation, particularly the galloping food prices and the worsening law and order situation. Mr Zardari must however not forget that the issue of reinstatement had not only led the two mainstream parties to a historic victory in the last general elections but it also remains fundamental to the revival of the rule of law in the country. At the risk of repetition, the coalition leadership needs to be reminded that its inability to limit the damage done by the continuing impasse will only strengthen the forces trying to derail the democratic process.