Pakistan coalition meet to restore judges ends inconclusively (Lead)

April 29th, 2008 - 4:07 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Aroonim Bhuyan and Muhammad Najeeb
Dubai/Islamabad, April 29 (IANS) Talks in Dubai between Pakistan’s ruling coalition partners - the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) - to finalise the restoration of the judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed emergency Nov 3 last year ended inconclusively. Leaders of the two parties met for over four hours, first at PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari’s residence here Monday evening and then continued the meeting at a nearby hotel. However, they failed to reach a consensus.

“The PPP and PML-N leaders did not reach a compromise and the Dubai meeting between them was put off without breaking the impasse,” a coalition leader told IANS after the meeting.

Apart from Zardari, those representing the PPP were Federal Law Minister Farooq Naik, Adviser to the Prime Minister on interior Rehman Malik and Federal Shipping Minister Syed Naved Qamar.

From the PML-N, its president Shahbaz Sharif, Federal Communications Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Federal Petroleum Minister Khawaja Asif and Attorney General of Punjab Khawaja Harris were present.

“The two sides failed to hammer out differences,” a PPP leader told IANS.

Earlier, Naik had expressed hope that the outcome of the meeting would be “positive”.

Naik had told reporters in Islamabad that there was complete agreement between both the parties on the restoration of judges. Both the groups had formed a joint committee to draw a mechanism for the purpose.

Naik said both parties had reviewed the recommendations regarding the judges’ reinstatement in detail and the committee had drafted a few proposals.

However, sources in the ruling coalition had told IANS in Islamabad that the committee could not agree on one formula and “there are huge differences between the parties”.

The two sides differ widely over the modalities of restoring the judges, especially the proposed constitutional package that envisages fixing the tenure for the chief justice. PML-N is averse to the idea of fixing any tenure for the post.

Moreover, the PPP wants to club the constitution package for curtailing the powers of the president and the resolution to restore the judges sacked by Musharraf, while the PML-N does not want to link the two issues.

Naik said Zardari would meet former prime minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif after reviewing the proposals of the joint committee. After their meeting, the recommendations would be finalised and the procedure of restoration would be determined.

However, there were doubts about the outcome of the meeting as Zardari had been saying that the judges gave him no relief when he was jailed.

Zardari, the husband of slain PPP chief Benazir Bhutto, was arrested in November 1996 when the PPP government was sacked by then president Farooq Leghari. He was released in 2004.

Before the formation of the government last month, both PPP and PML-N signed a declaration that they would reinstate the sacked judges within 30 days of assuming power. The 30-day deadline expires April 30.

Talking to reporters in Lahore before leaving for Dubai, Shahbaz Sharif had said his party had taken a clear stance that the issue of the judges’ reinstatement should not be linked with the constitutional package that is meant to undo the amendments made by Musharraf and to cut his powers.

PML-N sources said party leaders wanted the judges to be restored within the set deadline as they believed any delay would leave a bad impression on the lawyers’ community in particular and the public in general.

“We may take unilateral action and move a resolution in parliament for the restoration of the judges if the PPP refuses to restore them,” PML-N leader Jaffer Iqbal told ARY television channel.

Another PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, said the party may give a few days margin to the PPP to reinstate the judges after the April 30 deadline expires.

“If they still refuse to restore the judges, the PML-N will consider options like sitting in the opposition,” the politician said.

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