The PML-N is not willing to let go of the judges' issue, but has forced the PPP, through Co-Chairman Asif Zardari, to go so far as to think about impeaching the president, so far a thought anathema for Zardari and the PPP. It will not get that far, as the president is supposed to resign before that happens, or rather the PPP is supposed to prevent the impeachment before that, somehow, presumably by not voting for an impeachment, whatever the cost to it. The PPP has been forced to come up with the constitutional package through which it plans to restore the ousted judges, who are at the centre of the dispute. The PPP hopes to get a tenure concept accepted for chief justices that way. The attraction in that for the PPP supporters is that it would bring the constitution in line with the position after the first amendments under Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, where CJs were appointed for a fixed tenure of a certain number of years, not as before and now, where they carried on as CJ until they retired from the Bench, at the ordinary retirement age for judges, which is 62 years for the High Courts, and 65 for the Supreme Court. In this way, the PPP hopes to get a tenure fixed for Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who is the source of the president's embarrassment at a restoration, the reason for his impeachment and the putative reason for his resignation. The PML-N initially did not agree, but it appears that it has now agreed, and all that remains to be settled is the length of the tenure, which would be applicable to all future holders of the office. The principle is of fixed tenures, which is an old one. Usually, judges are ascribed a retirement age, which is usually significantly more than the normal retirement age. In fact, in the USA and England, there is no fixed retirement age, except one which judges themselves observe, upon attaining which they do not stand retired, but have to resign, to get the reasonably generous pension and perks that are allowed to them. There is the possibility of a judge in his senility being carried to court to hear cases, and this has happened, but the British and the Americans believed that this was worth it, so long as the cause of justice was upheld. But since we have continued with the British concept of judges as government servants, with proper minimum and maximum ages of recruitment, as well as a fixed age of retirement, after which they would enjoy whatever benefits had been fixed for them, monetary and non-monetary alike, judges retire at a fixed age, and are liable to the subtle pressures of an extension in service being caused by elevation from a High Court to the Supreme Court, as well as to further state employment. The PPP hopes to perpetuate all of that to avoid embarrassment to the president. In exchange, the PPP hopes to get Article 58 (2b) abolished, as well as adding judges to Article 6, which covers high treason, or the subversion or abrogation of the constitution, or any attempt or conspiracy thereof. This is a crime for which the (present) High Treason Act 1974 provides the death sentence. The PPP is obviously defending itself against a situation as it faced twice before, where its government was dismissed because the president agreed with the military that it was a good idea. One needs to go back to the Zia martial law to realise how deep-seated are two ideas within the military, and the whole post-Zia period is witness that politicians are uncomfortable with the ideas. The ideas are the presidential power to dissolve (combined with the presidential power of appointment) and the National Security Council. The NSC was not accepted in the 18th Amendment, but the dissolution power was, until abolished by the fourth government under it, through the 14th Amendment, which also made the prime minister responsible for the relevant appointments. Musharraf was only implementing the old military consensus when he brought back the dissolution power under the 17th Amendment and the NSC in an Act of its own. And Zardari is only implementing the political consensus by abolishing the dissolution power in his package. The details of the package that have emerged so far do not mention the NSC, but it should be assumed that it would, as in the 18th Amendment, be abolished. In that case, the military would still have a chip on its collective shoulder about its compulsion to rule. The Pakistan military has co-opted both the executive's machinery and the judiciary in its previous attempts to rule. The present exercise, unlike previous attempts at constitution-making, attempts to tackle these two necessary arms of the military, or rather of any government. The military does not just rule. It takes power with a declared determination to follow a reformist agenda, whereby it will right all the obvious wrongs of the system, like hoarding, black marketing and poor traffic sense. It is also determined to "crush" India. If these domestic and foreign portions of its policy were not there, the military would find it difficult to justify its take over. The dissolution power must be available, and if now it is expressly (rather than merely by implication) circumscribed by referral to the Supreme Court, the court should be prepared to give an appropriate decision that does not interfere with the working of the executive. The constitutional package which the PPP plans to pass cannot go through until the budget has been passed, which means for at least 10 sittings of the house, which implies, assuming that the budget is presented the day the Assembly first meets, and allowing 10 sittings for the general debate, debate on cut motions, and passage of the numerous demands for grants (a routine activity, but a time-consuming one), that the package will only be introduced by the middle of next month. Then, after passage in the National Assembly comes passage in the Senate. So we are looking at the middle of July, more than enough time for the president to take appropriate action. If nothing else, he will make sure that he is not embarrassed. He will not resign, not until the American administration tells him to, which it is very unlikely to do, not unless the War On Terror goes much worse than currently. E-mail: