Sharif turns on the heat after inconclusive talks with Zardari (Lead)

May 10th, 2008 - 8:02 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb and Dipankar De Sarkar
Islamabad/London, May 10 (IANS) The main constituents of Pakistan’s fragile ruling alliance were at loggerheads again Saturday - a day after seven hours of London talks failed to break a deadlock on whether to reinstate judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari pleaded he was helpless, while a leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) - or PML-N - threatened to pull his party from the coalition government in Islamabad if the sacked judges are not reinstated.

“We are set to quit the cabinet but will continue to support the PPP government if the judges are not restored by Monday,” the PML-N leader who did not want to be identified told IANS in Islamabad Saturday.

But Zardari, widower of slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto who has favoured a compromise with Musharraf, said he was powerless.

“For the time being, we are not breaking up that status quo. We don’t have the power. We don’t have the two-thirds majority. We do not want to harm the country by way of confrontation,” he told BBC Urdu radio.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who founded PML-N, told reporters after seven hours of talks in London that he was prepared to wait until Monday for Zardari to respond over “certain points” of differences.

“Basically there are certain points where there have been differences. We haven’t been able to resolve them yet. I’m going back to Pakistan tomorrow and then I will speak … we will wait until May 12,” he said in London Friday night.

Earlier the two men were joined by Pakistan’s ambassador designate to the US and several senior political figures for talks that began at Sharif’s London apartment in a plush area of central London and then switched to an undisclosed venue before wrapping up at around 11 pm.

Zardari flew in to London to meet Sharif, whose wife is recuperating after a knee surgery in a London hospital, amid mounting speculation that the one-month-old government in Islamabad was facing collapse over the contentious issue of judges, sacked by Musharraf in November last year.

Sharif, ousted by Musharraf in a military coup in 1999, wants the judges to be reinstated.

At the talks, Sharif was accompanied by PML-N president and brother Shahbaz Sharif, vice-president Ghous Ali Shah and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khwaja Asif.

Zardari was assisted by Pakistan’s ambassador designate to the US, Hussain Haqqani.

Asif told reporters the two leaders were determined to resist the return of “anti-democratic forces” in Pakistan and “that is why we are going to such lengths to save the coalition.”

President Musharraf dismissed more than 60 judges Nov 3 last year and imposed an emergency in a bid to counter a legal challenge to his re-election as president while he was still army chief.

The reinstatement of these judges, many of whom are Musharraf’s critics, could see the legal challenge being renewed and Musharraf impeached.

At the centre of the dispute is sacked chief justice Ifitikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who not only opposed Musharraf’s re-election bid but has also accepted legal challenges to an amnesty Musharraf granted Bhutto and Zardari in corruption cases last year.

Sharif has called a meeting of his party’s executive committee in Islamabad Monday.

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