US joins PPP, PML-N talks but deadlock persists (Roundup)

May 11th, 2008 - 10:10 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Dipankar De Sarkar and Muhammad Najeeb
London/Islamabad, May 11 (IANS) A senior US official joined Pakistani leaders for talks in London Sunday but the last-ditch mediation bid reportedly failed to break a prolonged deadlock on whether to reinstate judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf. US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asia Richard Boucher held an hour-long meeting with former Pakistan prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Shahbaz Sharif.

The US official, who reached London early Sunday morning on his way home from Bangladesh, was also expected to meet Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari separately later Sunday in an effort to end the political stalemate between the two parties that make up Pakistan’s ruling alliance.

The US mediation effort came after Nawaz Sharif and Zardari failed to reach agreement after seven hours of talks Saturday on the issue - talks that were joined by Pakistan’s ambassador-designate to Washington, Hussain Haqqani.

Nawaz Sharif wants the judges reinstated. Musharraf sacked over 60 of them in November 2007, after Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry challenged his bid for re-election while holding on to his army uniform.

Sharif was ousted 1999 by Musharraf in an army coup.

But Zardari, whose PPP won the February general elections, has pleaded helplessness saying his party lacks the two-thirds majority in parliament needed to reverse the sackings and that he does not want to “harm the country by way of confrontation”.

The stalemate has brought Pakistan’s fragile government to the brink of collapse.

Earlier, Shahbaz Sharif confirmed to television channels there had been no headway in the talks.

“The ball is in the court of PPP. We have tried our level best but so far no achievement has been made,” Shahbaz Sharif told Geo Television.

Back in Islamabad, PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said: “We do not support a judiciary which is subservient to the executive.”

Asked if his party will part ways with PPP in case they failed to reach any decision, Khan said: “We are committed to restoration of judges and nothing less than that is acceptable.”

He said Nawaz Sharif would return to Islamabad Monday morning and that their party will meet the same day to take a final decision on the matter.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar, however, downplayed reports of a deadlock, saying: “There is progress, there is hope.”

Babar said party stalwarts from both sides held meetings till late Saturday night and had “narrowed down” differences over the reinstatement of judges and independence of judiciary.

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