Nawaz, Zardari to meet to discuss government formation

February 21st, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif

Islamabad, Feb 21 (IANS) Pakistan’s leading contenders for power, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari, will meet here Thursday evening to discuss the possibilities of government formation following the Feb 18 polls which saw their parties rout the Pervez Musharraf backed PML-Q. Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) will hold meetings of the new members of the National Assembly and then the party central executive committee before talks in the evening with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Zardari, who holds the reins of the party after the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. The talks will be followed by a press conference.

The meeting between the former prime minister and the widower of another former prime minister comes a day after US officials met Zardari in Islamabad and Sharif’s brother Shahbaz Sharif in Lahore. They had both been apparently given the message to not rock Musharraf’s boat.

Significantly, Zardari, the co-chairperson of the largest party in the new National Assembly, has not been talking about removal of Musharraf. Instead, he has talked in vague terms of “strengthening the parliament”.

According to results, which are yet to be declared officially, the PPP has got 113 seats, PML-N 84 and the Awami National Party 14 - bringing their strength to 211 in the 342-member National Assembly.

While elections were held in 268 of 272 seats, there are 70 reserved seats - 60 for women and 10 for non-Muslims.

The three parties together expect a major part of the 70 reserved seats to be also included in their kitty, giving a comfortable majority to the alliance if it were formed.

But there are major differences between the PML-N and the PPP that need to be resolved.

The PML-N had made restoration of power to the judiciary its main poll plank, as well as the chief condition for forming an alliance with the PPP. However, the PPP has been more hesitant to talk about reinstatement of sacked judges, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chawdhary.

Musharraf’s trump card is seen to be the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), under which Benazir Bhutto and Asif Zardari were allowed to return, despite corruption cases piled up against them. The Pakistan Supreme Court is expected to soon give a verdict on the legality of the NRO.

Further, in a Geneva court Wednesday, lawyers representing the Pakistan government had pushed to prosecute Asif Zardari on money-laundering cases.

Both the major parties also have to decide on a prime ministerial candidate - Zardari has already ruled himself out while Sharif has too many cases against him in courts.

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