THE seven-month-long alliance between the PPP and the PML(N) has finally come to an end. This would pain many who believed that an understanding between the two mainstream parties alone could strengthen democracy and steer the country out of the serious economic, political and security crisis it has inherited from the previous administration. While working together both sides have indulged in actions that contributed to the parting of ways. The PPP chose the PML(N) as its ally after the elections, spurning offers from the President' camp for a patch-up with the PML(Q) which would have delivered Punjab to the PPP. It offered the choicest ministries to the PML(N) in the Federal Cabinet and agreed to play second fiddle to it in Punjab. With Mr Zardari repeatedly going back on pledges to restore the ousted judges, subsequently maintaining that these were merely political statements having no sanctity, doubts were bound to be created in the PML(N) ranks about the credibility of its partner. Mian Nawaz Sharif fully cooperated with the coalition government even after the departure of his party's ministers from the Federal Cabinet, declined to take full part in the lawyers' movement, to maintain the alliance with the PPP, thus inviting criticism from his erstwhile friends in the APDM. However he contributed to the break-up by displaying unusual rigidity and insisted on clear-cut dates despite knowing the limitations under which Mr Zardari was working. There are many who think that instead of abruptly calling back his nominees from the committee appointed to draft the resolution for the reinstatement of judgers, Mian Nawaz should have waited till Parliament took a decision on the resolution. What is needed now is to avoid reverting to the type of unseemly struggles that characterised the relations between the two parties during the 1988-99 period. Both are within their right to criticise each other's policies inside and outside Parliament, but they must do nothing that upsets the applecart. The PML(N) should respect the PPP's right to hold Islamabad for five years, while the PPP must not try to deprive the PML(N) of its mandate to rule Punjab. There are a lot of positive things the two can do while they maintain adversarial relations. Whatever the shape of coalition at the centre, the PPP would lack the two thirds majority needed to effect the much needed amendments in the constitution without the help of the PML(N). In one of his recent interviews, Mr Zardari has said that the Army has realised that politics is not its cup of tea. However, unless the PPP and the PML(N) display tolerance for one another that they failed to do in the past, maintain good working relations and their leaders learn to act like political rivals rather than personal enemies, those waiting in the wings might not take long to give the politicians a surprise.