Sharif could return, parliament to be supreme: Gilani

March 19th, 2009 - 5:33 pm ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif Islamabad, March 19 (IANS) In the strongest assertion of his authority yet, Pakistani Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has said opposition leader Nawaz Sharif could rejoin his government, which will endeavour to return to parliament the powers that had been taken away by former military strongman Pervez Musharraf.
“We are committed to changing the system,” Gilani told the Wall Street Journal in an interview, adding: “My main endeavour is to end the politics of confrontation.”

“I am sure we can work with Nawaz Sharif in strengthening the democratic process,” Gilani maintained.

“We have to return to parliamentary democracy on the lines of Westminster,” he added.

The statements come days after Gilani deftly defused a potentially volatile situation caused by a lawyers’ protest to demand the reinstatement of Supreme Court and high court judges sacked in 2007. They were also a clear sign of the changing political equations in Pakistan, with President Asif Ali Zardari’s star on the decline due to his intransigence on the judges’ and other issues.

“I hope we will go back to our relations,” Gilani told WSJ.

“I can offer Nawaz Sharif to join the coalition at an appropriate time…. That shows our resolve for the reconciliation.”

Sharif had last week led a laywers’ ‘long march’ to demand the reinstatement of chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhury and the 60-odd judges of the apex and high courts Musharraf has sacked after declaring an emergency Nov 3, 2007.

The government initially talked tough, warning the marchers they would not be permitted to enter Islamabad and even asking the army to stand by.

Throughout the agitation, which began Thursday, Gilani had been in touch with Zardari on the phone but they had never met as the president was not willing to give in.

Zardari finally gave ground following a meeting early Monday with Gilani and Pakistan Army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani. Hours later, Gilani announced on national television that all the sacked judges would be reinstated. Sharif then called off the ‘long march’.

The judges issue had soured relations for over a year between Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that had come together to form a coalition after the February 2008 general elections.

The two parties had even agreed to a governance agenda that included the restoration of the judges and the repeal of the controversial 17 amendments Musharraf had rammed through in 2003 transferring most of the prime minister’s powers to the presidency.

Zardari’s reneging on the pledges prompted the PML-N to walk out of the coalition.

The repeal of the 17th amendment was among the demands of the protesting lawyers but this got swept under the larger issue of the judges’ reinstatement.

But, as Gilani indicated during the interview, it was very much on the agenda.

“We need to implement the charter of democracy signed by two former prime ministers,” Gilani, referring to the pact Sharif and Benazir Bhutto had signed shortly before the latter was slain Dec 27, 2007.

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