The resignation of nine Muslim League (N) ministers from the coalition cabinet has come as a relief. In public demonstration of some sense of honour, they resigned because they had failed to ensure the reinstatement of the judges by May 12, the deadline they had fixed for the second time. According to Mian Nawaz Sharif the deadline of May 12 was given with full agreement of Mr Asif Zardari who had authorised him to make the announcement after the first deadline of April 30 given in the Murree Declaration which could not be met. The two leaders, it is emerging after weeks of subterfuge, do not agree on the issue. Mian Nawaz Sharif wants the Supreme Court to go back to the November 2, 2007 position as agreed in the Murree Declaration signed by both of them. That calls for the judges of the Supreme Court removed by Musharraf illegally on November 3, 2007 to be reinstated unconditionally. Mr Asif Zardari, on the other hand, wishes to include the judges' reinstatement in a package of reforms they plan to introduce in the parliament, in effect, among other things, reinstating the judges with their powers considerably reduced. Mian Nawaz Sharif is not against considering judicial reforms but insists on the reinstatement of the judges to be unconditional, pre-November 2 status as agreed in Murree last spring between the two sides. Further, Mr Zardari wishes to take the route of a constitutional amendment in the parliament (requiring a two-third majority in the National Assembly and the Senate, respectively) but Mian Nawaz Sharif believes a simple resolution in the parliament should be enough for the reinstatement of the judges, a stand alone issue. Without going into too many legal implications, this is where they seem stuck. Basically, though, Musharraf remains the issue. The PPP is not in favour of dislodging him whereas the Muslim League (N) wants him out. One problem of PPP is that quite apart from the US brokered deal between the PPP and Musharraf, Zardari has reservations regarding Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and his colleagues. There were times not long ago when Mr Zardari was being hounded by the government and failed, in his perception, to receive justice from the courts. In the ongoing struggle for the reinstatement of the judges, the new battle lines show a revived APDM with Jamat-i-Islami in the lead, Imran Khan's Tehrik-e-Insaf and nationalist parties with leaders of great stature including Mahmood Khan Achakzai and Rasool Bakhsh Palejo, all colleagues of Mian Nawaz Sharif in the APDM before he decided to contest the general election. Above all, on Nawaz's side are the members of the bar led by Barrister Aitzaz Ahsan and his fiery colleagues who have been steadfast in their unqualified demand for the reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges illegally removed on November 3. They have announced a national protest march on June 10. Dedicating himself to leading the lawyers movement, Barrister Aitzaz is not contesting the by-election to the National Assembly. CJ Iftikhar Chaudhry is travelling to Karachi, Faisalabad and Peshawar to address lawyers' conventions later in May. They will have the support of the masses. Muslim League (N), their government in Punjab having already notified Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry as the CJ of Pakistan for protocol purposes, is likely to support the lawyers movement on account of the similarity of the objective. These are the formidable forces on the side of reinstatement of the judges. On the other side, is the PPP, led by its Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, all but aligned with a subdued Musharraf and the parties that support him, namely, the defeated Q League, (called the qatil - killer - League soon after Ms Bhutto's tragic assassination on December 27 in Rawalpindi last year by Mr Zardari), MQM and JUI (F) - a religious party. There are disagreements within the PPP; the tip of the iceberg visible through Raja Shahid Zafar, a hard core Bhutto supporter and a PPP stalwart who has supported the party through thick and thin, in a rather bitter recent statement. Some senior party members believe that the prime minister should have rather reinstated the judges through his first speech in the parliament in which he released them from house arrest with a one-sentence directive. They think that he could have pulled it off while judicial and other reforms could be considered later. They are also unhappy at some new faces in the party front ranks that emerged from nowhere. Another element feels ignored in the Punjab Governor's appointment. The hardcore is alarmed by the impression that the party policy supports Musharraf. According to Dr Safdar Abbasi, such a perception could destroy the party. In the meanwhile Musharraf, in a no win situation, sulks in the Army House as an unwelcome tenant. If the chief justice is reinstated, he goes as the proceedings pending will resume in court. If he is not reinstated, there will be a replay of last year's events focused on Musharraf's removal, albeit far fiercer. Therefore the main question is: if that happens, will this government allow it?