Nawaz’s party to support, not join Pakistan government

April 3rd, 2009 - 3:50 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif Lahore, April 3 (IANS) Keeping his options open, former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif has said his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would not, for the moment, join the federal government but would support it unconditionally.
“The PML-N will fully endorse the federal government unconditionally,” Sharif declared at a PML-N meeting here Thursday.

“It was decided in the meeting that presently, the PML-N had no intention of rejoining the federal cabinet,” The News reported Friday.

The PML-N had Wednesday been formally invited to return to the federal cabinet.

Observers here saw Sharif’s decision as a means of buying time as Pakistan’s political scenario takes on new contours with Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani emerging on top at the cost of President Asif Ali Zardari after the events of the last few weeks.

Be it the restoration of the Supreme Court judges sacked in 2007 or the reinstatement of Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif as the chief minister of Punjab province, it is Gilani who has emerged the statesman while Zardari has only added to his wheeler dealer image.

Most importantly, once the controversial 17th constitutional amendment is repealed, Zardari would be left with only ceremonial powers, giving Gilani greater authority to run the country.

Observers said Sharif was perhaps waiting for the new dispensation to take shape before making his next move.

That Sharif and his brother are important players is quite clear, with an editorial Friday saying they “have emerged as the rising stars of Pakistan’s politics”.

“Western allies are said to be looking on them with a new eye,” The News said.

It also pointed to a New York Times report saying “there has already been a serious re-think in Washington” about Zardari’s standing.

The PML-N and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that leads the federal government had in October 2007 agreed on a Charter of Democracy governance agenda on the basis of which they were to fight the general elections originally slated for January 2008.

The assassination of PPP chief and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto Nov 27, 2007 pushed the polls back by a month, with the two parties forming a coalition after their one-two electoral finish.

The PML-N, however, walked out of the alliance after PPP co-chair Zardari reneged on two key pledges in the governance agenda: restoring the Supreme Court and high court judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after imposing an emergency Nov 3, 2007, and repealing the 17th amendment.

Relations between the PML-N and the PPP further soured after the Supreme Court Feb 25 cited corruption charges to bar the Sharif brothers from contesting elections or holding public office.

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