Governor’s rule lifted from Pakistan’s Punjab

March 30th, 2009 - 11:59 pm ICT by IANS  

Yousuf Raza Gilani Lahore, March 30 (IANS) In a fence-mending exercise, governor’s rule has been lifted from Pakistan’s Punjab, paving the way for reinstalling an elected government in the country’s most politically significant province.
While Governor Salman Taseer has summoned the provincial assembly to meet April 1 to elect a new chief minister, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is likely to pick an interim incumbent till the poll bar against Shahbaz Sharif, who previously held the job, is revoked.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik confirmed that governor’s rule had been lifted but took umbrage at a political question being asked while he was speaking on Monday’s terror attack on a police academy near here that claimed the lives of 27 trainees.

“Why are you asking me a political question in the midst of this, But yes, governor’s rule has been lifted from Punjab,” he told an Indian TV news channel.

President Asif Ali Zardari agreed to the recommendation of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani for lifting governor’s rule in the province. This followed a meeting between the two Sunday.

The decision has also raised a question mark over Taseer’s future. He is known to be a Zardari acolyte and it was widely believed that he was appointed to destabilise Shahbaz Sharif’s government.

Governor’s rule was imposed after the Supreme Court last month cited corruption charges to bar Sharif and his elder brother Nawaz Sharif from contesting elections or holding public office.

Nawaz Sharif saw a Zardari hand in the verdict.

The Pakistani government has now appealed against the verdict and the Supreme Court, which is now hearing the case, is likely to reverse the ban.

This is being seen as one of Gilani’s fence-mending measures after Nawaz Sharif led a high-voltage lawyer’s stir earlier this month to demand the reinstatement of sacked chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the other Supreme Court and high court judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency Nov 3, 2007.

The government initially talked tough, warning the lawyers they would not be permitted to enter Islamabad but buckled in March 16 after the agitation threatened to spin out of control.

Chaudhry got his job back March 22, the same day Gilani and Nawaz Sharif met over lunch at the latter’s country’s villa on Lahore’s outskirts.

The duo are believed to have discussed the modalities of the PML-N’s return to Yusuf’s federal coalition.

The two parties had formed the coalition, along with two smaller parties, after their one-two finish at the February 2008 general elections.

The PML-N, however, walked out after Zardari reneged on the governance agenda that had been agreed on before the general elections that were originally scheduled for January 2008 but were pushed back after the assassination December 27, 2007 of Zardari’s wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif had agreed on the governance agenda October 2007.

Now, with the contentious issue of the judges’ reinstatement out of the way and the government agreeing to repeal the controversial 17th amendment, the way is clear for the PML’ return to the federal government.

Musharraf had pushed the amendment through in 2003, transferring key powers to the presidency from the prime minister’s office. These powers relate to the appointment of the service and the chief justice, as also to dismissing the federal and provincial governments, as also parliament and the provincial assemblies.

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