Kayani meets PM as confrontation looms over sacked judges (Third Lead)

March 11th, 2009 - 10:08 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, March 11 (IANS) Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Wednesday met Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani against the backdrop of a confrontation looming over restoring Supreme Court judges sacked two years ago, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif bent on leading a countrywide “Long March” of lawyers to force the issue.
“Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Wednesday called on Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani here at the PM House and discussed matters of national importance,” the official APP news agency reported, without elaborating.

The meeting came at a time when President Asif Ali Zardari is in Tehran to attend the summit of the Economic Cooperation Organisation.

Also on Wednesday, Sharif attempted to drive a wedge between Zardari and Gilani, saying: “We have a parliamentary democracy in Pakistan, like you have in India. In a parliamentary democracy, the prime minister is supreme.”

The statement, to an Indian TV news channel, came when he was asked to comment on reports that moves were underway to replace Zardari with Gilani to cool political tempers in Pakistan.

Relations between Zardari and Gilani are known to be tense, with the prime minister repeatedly fending off the president’s attempts to muscle onto his turf.

There have even been reports that Zardari could transfer the powers of the presidency to the prime minister’s office and then occupy that post.

Earlier Wednesday, Sharif urged the people to take to streets to change their destiny and asked them to take part in the ‘Long March’ beginning Thursday if they wanted to change their fortunes.

“Today is a defining moment in Pakistan’s history. We can change the destiny of this country. Pakistan stands at a crossroads today and it is your duty to save it,” Sharif declared at a crowded public rally in Abbotabad in Punjab province.

“We want to change this outdated system because it poses a danger to our existence and they want to charge me for sedition,” Sharif added.

The reference was to Interior Minister Rehman Malik’s threat to slap sedition charges against Sharif if he went ahead with the march Thursday.

The ‘Long March’ is to simultaneously begin Thursday from Balochistan and Sindh and after passing through the Punjab province culminate in a sit-in outside the parliament complex here.

The Punjab government Tuesday evening began a crackdown on PML-N activists, arresting hundreds of them across the province in a bid to halt the party’s proposed ‘Long March’.

The ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the PML-N had emerged as the two largest parties after the February 2008 elections and agreed to form a coalition government.

However, they soon fell out after PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari, now the president, reneged on a pledge to reinstate the judges, including then Supreme Court chief justice Ifthikar Mohammad Chaudhury. All of them were sacked after then president Pervez Musharraf imposed emergency in 2007.

Zardari apparently apprehended that Chaudhury could reopen the graft cases that Musharraf had ordered withdrawn.

This led to the PML-N pulling out of the federal coalition and its ministers resigning from the government of Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.

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