A history was made when, following February 18 elections, Pakistan's two main political parties, namely Pakistan Peoples' Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) formed a broad based coalition at the federal as well as at the provincial levels. It was a move that had no precedent in the 61 year old political history of Pakistan and without parallel in modern South Asian politics. These two parties had bitterly opposed each other in the past and still had divergent outlook on a number of important national issues. Despite that they decided to become partners in governance - a decision, which was hailed both inside and outside the country. Even those political parties, which had opted to stay away from the February 18 elections, pledged their support and prayed for the preservation of the coalition. The coalition enabled Prime Minister Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani to get unanimous vote of confidence from the National Assembly and secured the exit of former President General (retd) Pervez Musharraf under the threat of impeachment. But within a week of the departure of former president, the coalition fell apart; PML-N pulled out of the coalition and has decided to sit on the opposition benches in the parliament. Although this has come as a great disappointment to those who had placed their confidence in the ability of the political parties to jointly meet the serious challenges Pakistan to day faces. However, everything is not lost even after the break-up of the coalition. The imperatives, which propelled these two parties to form a coalition six months ago, are still strong enough to impel them to enter into mutual cooperation for achieving common objectives in the restoration of full democracy, supremacy of parliament and restoration of the 1973 constitution. Senator Asif Ali Zardari's telephonic call on last Thursday to PML-N Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif, Prime Minister Gilani's initiative to hold talks with a central leader of the PML-N, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan and the talks between the members of the delegation of the two parties at Punjab House can be taken as a good sign of efforts for building a new structure of cooperation between PPP and PML-N. This structure should be based on joint efforts to maintain the climate of national reconciliation, consensus based politics and common approach to the resolution of complex problems faced by the country. Although PML-N has opted out of the coalition with PPP, there are still a number of strong reasons why the two parties must continue to cooperate with each other. For example, the removal of clauses in the 17th Amendment, which have tilted the balance of power in favour of the president, cannot be achieved without cooperation between the two parties, as it involves an amendment of the constitution. Both parties are committed to restore the supremacy of the parliament by deleting 58-2(b) from the constitution. This will require the support of two-third majority in both the houses in their separate sessions. Senator Asif Ali Zardari has recently spoken in favour of removing Article 58-2(b). His statement can be a basis for cooperation between PPP and PML-N for implementing the commitments the two parties have made under the Charter of Democracy. Once the two parties initiate the process of cooperation to complete the process of democratic transition through removing 58-2(b), restoring the constitution to its original position and ensuring the supremacy of the parliament, the way can be paved for cooperation in other areas of common concern. One such area is the restoration of the judges rendered dysfunctional as a result of Musharraf's November 3 action. The federal government has initiated a process under which eight former judges of the Sindh High Court have taken new oath and resumed their duties. There are reports that four to five former judges of the Lahore High Court are also willing to follow their brothers in Sindh. The federal government has defended the decision and Pakistan Bar Council (PBC) has also supported the process as a partial victory of the Lawyers' Movement. But the law minister's categorical statement on the issue of the chief justice has left the legal fraternity with no option but to press for the restoration of Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as chief justice (CJ) with greater vigour. The Lawyers' Movement launched in March last year for the restoration of all the judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, will therefore continue and it may gain momentum in case the federal government ignored their demands. A situation of confrontation may be created between the lawyer's community and the government should each of the two sides stood its ground and refused to yield in a spirit of compromise. Fortunately, there are still chances, remote as they may seem, for the two sides to find a common meeting point. Senator Asif Ali Zardari has, in a recent statement hinted at the possibility of the restoration of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has eulogised the CJ by calling him imam of all deposed judges and said that all the judges, including the CJ, would be restored but no deadline can be given. Another prominent leader of the PPP and leader of the house in the senate, Mr Raza Rabbani has in a recent statement said that the judicial crisis in Pakistan would end only with the restoration of CJ Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. On their end, the leadership of PML-N has announced that they would refrain from indulging in a slanderous campaign against PPP candidate in presidential elections. Mian Nawaz Sharif has assured PPP-led federal government that his party would cooperate with it in implementing the Charter of Democracy. The leadership of PML-N has even offered to return to the coalition with PPP in case the latter restores the judges and removes the 17th Constitutional Amendment. Thus, the gap between the stated positions of the two parties on the two major issues relating to the restoration of deposed judges and removal of 17th Amendment is not unbridgeable. The two sides can reach a compromise even on the most contentious issue of the restoration of deposed judges through a process of patient negotiations and in a spirit of give and take. In the not too distant a past, the two parties demonstrated their capacity to reach an agreement on such vexed question as the impeachment of President Musharraf. Why they cannot accomplish another feat by showing similar spirit of accommodation and compromise? To facilitate the movement towards such an agreement, some goodwill gestures or the announcement of confidence building measures on the part of both sides are required. They may include a unilateral announcement by the PML-N to withdraw its candidate in the presidential elections against Senator Zardari. The government should reciprocate by coming forward with a clear commitment to restore all the judges, including Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, after going through another round of discussions with its coalition partners and meeting all the requirements of constitution and law. Such initiatives on the part of the two sides will immediately remove the clouds of uncertainty and mistrust from the political horizon of Pakistan, revive the process of national reconciliation with which the nation started off immediately after the elections and instil a new hope and confidence in the hearts of the people about the future of their country. The writer is a freelance columnist