Pakistani lawyers’ Long March rattles Zardari

June 16th, 2008 - 4:02 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, June 16 (IANS) The lawyer’s Long March to demand restoration of the judges President Pervez Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency last November seems to have rattled Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to the extent that he quickly wants to resolve the issue. “The country’s most impressive Long March may not have shaken the insensitive presidency of Pervez Musharraf but it has apparently rocked the Zardari House which is now rushing to resolve the judges issue to avoid further public agitation,” The News said Monday.

The Zardari House here has emerged as the new power centre after the February general elections that saw the PPP and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) emerge as the two largest parties and stitch together an uneasy coalition.

The judges’ issue, which Zardari had pushed onto the back-burner, has now become a matter of top priority for the PPP, the newspaper added.

Distancing itself from its previous stance that the judges would be restored through a constitutional amendment, Zardari House is now saying there is no linkage between reinstating the judges and a package to restore the 1973 constitution.

Hinting at the early resolution of the judges’ issue, a source said the judges could be restored soon after the federal budget for 2008-09 is passed later this week.

The lawyers had staged the Long March that concluded Friday to demand the restoration of more than 60 Supreme Court and High Court judges President Pervez Musharraf sacked after they refused to take a fresh oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated along with the emergency.

There is speculation that the government is ready to give in to their demand - but also retain the new Supreme Court bench sworn in under the PCO.

This follows a statement by Finance Minister Naveed Qamar during his budget speech June 11 that the number of Supreme Court judges would be raised from the present 14 to 29.

Now, however, there seems to be a slight rethink on the issue, with The News saying that the PCO judges might be assigned evening courts and others set up to speedily dispose off the mounting pending cases.

“A limited role for the PCO judges might be an option that would be acceptable to all the stake-holders including the lawyers’ fraternity, deposed judges and even (former prime minister) Nawaz Sharif, who has categorically stated that he would not accept the PCO judges or approve of any proposal in the budget to increase the number of Supreme Court judges,” the newspaper said.

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