AT a time when the country can least afford it, a new rift has emerged between the government and opposition. Mian Nawaz Sharif's claim that he had been offered relief in the cases pending against him in return for keeping silent over the Farah Hameed Dogar case and not demanding Chief Justice Dogar's resignation, has led Information Minister Sherry Rehman to challenge it. Mian Nawaz, however, insists that the offer was made. The issue of additional marks for the Chief Justice's daughter had led to an unseemly tussle between Parliament and the judiciary, and the National Assembly Standing Committee on Education took up the matter, but its chairman complained that the government side was creating hurdles in the probe. When the issue landed in court and the government called on the Committee to abstain from taking it up as the matter was sub judice, Chairman Abid Sher Ali refused to oblige, maintaining that the courts had no jurisdiction to stay the proceedings of a parliamentary committee. Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court declared it could neither stay the proceedings of the Committee nor bar the media from publishing reports on the Chief Justice's daughter's case. However, the Supreme Court debarred the Committee from taking any action or holding any proceedings in the case till the matter had been disposed of by the Court. Earlier, the Committee chairman had complained that the Education Minister was creating hurdles in the proceedings of the Committee. There was also talk of summoning the Chief Justice to the Committee. Now the issue has brought the government and the PML(N) into collision. Coming from a responsible politician who has twice been Prime Minister, Mian Nawaz's statement cannot be rejected offhand. Despite a detailed statement by a reporter alleging that the Chief Justice had tried to influence him on the issue, Law Minister Farooq Naek has taken the stand that the Chief Justice was not at all involved in the affair of his daughter's examination results. Ground was being prepared for a standoff between the PPP and the PML(N\\) in Punjab over the last many months. Hawks from the two parties were taking positions that could only harm relations between the two. The tussle between the Governor and PML(N) ministers was a continuous source of bitterness. The appointment of the Chief Judstice of the Lahore High Court, sidelining the Speaker of the Punjab Assembly, as acting Governor during Mr Salman Taseer's absence is being interpreted as another cause of contention. The appointment is seen by many as a violation of the principle of separation of the judiciary from the executive. As the rift increases, hawks from these parties will have a field day forcing both sides to court the PML(Q). Increasing tensions between them does not bode well for democracy. Those waiting in the wings are likely to exacerbate the differences to prove that the political parties are incapable of running the country.