Pakistan's fragile ruling coalition was facing collapse after a US official's last-ditch mediation on Sunday failed to help break the deadlock on reinstating judges and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was set to withdraw its ministers from the cabinet.
"We are left with no option but to pull out of the cabinet... but we will continue to support the PPP (Pakistan People's Party) government and would continue to be part of the coalition," a PML-N leader told IANS in Islanabad as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other party leaders left London for Islamabad.
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher made an unscheduled stopover in London to meet Sharif and PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari. He was on his way home from Bangladesh.
The US mediation effort came after Sharif and Zardari failed to reach agreement after seven hours of talks Saturday on the issue - talks that were joined by Pakistan's ambassador-designate to Washington, Hussain Haqqani.
Both sides confirmed that Boucher held meetings with Sharif and Zardari but denied that they discussed the issue during their separate meetings.
"Yes, I met Boucher on his request and we discussed bilateral issues. I cannot even think of discussing our internal matters with leaders of any other country," Sharif told reporters at Heathrow airport before flying back to Islamabad where he is scheduled to head his party's meeting before making the final announcement on the next move.
Sharif said his party would still wait for any announcement from PPP till May 12 evening, the deadline set for restoration of about 60 judges of superior courts sacked by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed emergency Nov 3.
"We will not totally part ways with PPP, we would continue to talk to them on case to case basis, but we have to think on our party lines as well," Sharif's younger brother Shahbaz Sharif told the ARY television in London hinting that the party will quit the federal cabinet.
Earlier, the April 30 deadline was extended after PPP sought more time. The two leaders had held extended rounds of talks in Dubai to resolve their differences.
Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in 1999 in an amry coup, wants the judges reinstated. But Zardari has pleaded helplessness saying his party lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to reverse the sackings and that he does not want to "harm the country by way of confrontation".