US intervenes in Pakistan’s crisis over restoration of judges (Lead)May 11th, 2008 - 9:22 pm ICT by admin
Islamabad, May 11 (DPA) A senior US diplomat intervened Sunday to end the deadlock between Pakistan’s governing coalition partners over the reinstatement of deposed judges that seriously threatens their month-old alliance. President Pervez Musharraf, a favourite of the US for his unflinching support in the war against terror, sacked around 60 judges Nov 3 by declaring emergency rule in anticipation of revocation of his controversial re-election.
US Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs Richard Boucher Sunday met former premier Nawaz Sharif in London, where the alliance partners had been holding inconclusive talks on the course to be followed for the return of the judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.
The meeting between Boucher and Sharif took place at the request of Washington, and they discussed “Pakistan’s political and security situation”, Pakistani news channels cited Sharif’s personal secretary Imran Khwaja as saying.
After missing their first cut-off date of April 30 for the judges’ reinstatement, Asif Ali Zardari, who took up the reins of slain Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), and Sharif agreed to extend the deadline until May 12.
Both leaders have struck a stalemate because of the apparently uncompromising stance of Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) was ousted from power by Musharraf in a bloodless military coup in 1999.
The PML-N seeks unconditional restoration of judges through a parliamentary resolution followed by an executive order by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani, but the PPP advocates a constitutional reforms package to resolve the lingering issue.
“The coalition stands at a critical point and it’s now up to the PPP to take a firm decision,” a PML-N spokesman, Siddiqul Farooq, told DPA Sunday.
The PPP and PML-N turned the tide against Musharraf when their candidates routed his political backers in the Feb 18 vote while primarily rallying around the issue of the axed judges.
Analysts say the proposed judicial reforms would undermine the authority of Chaudhry, who is the bone of contention for the PPP as he had admitted legal challenges to an amnesty for politicians granted by Musharraf last October that largely benefited Zardari in escaping graft and corruption cases.
On the contrary, Chaudhry’s reinstatement could cause embattled Musharraf even more problems as his popularity has plunged after he suspended the top judge on abuse-of-office charges in March 2007.
However, the chief justice was restored in July but was sacked within four months.
Sharif’s lieutenants had earlier said that the party would quit the cabinet if the commitment made by the ruling coalition was not honoured.
However, a final decision on the desperate move is likely to be made in the meetings of PML-N highest committees in Islamabad Monday. Sharif is likely to return to Pakistan early Monday morning.
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