Win people’s trust, Musharraf urges Pakistani government

July 25th, 2008 - 2:26 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, July 25 (IANS) In a bid to regain his flagging authority, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has urged the uneasy ruling coalition to win the people’s confidence to cope with the country’s problems. He has also asked the government to take concrete steps to arrest inflation and ensure political stability.

“Just as the PPP (Pakistan Peoples Party)-led government has initiated the process of taking the coalition partners into confidence on key issues, Musharraf has also started meeting his main supporters,” The News reported Friday.

The president held separate meetings Thursday with Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) chief Shujaat Hussain, opposition leader in the National Assembly Pervez Elahi and Sindh Governor Ishratul Ebad Khan at the Presidential Camp Office in the adjacent garrison town of Rawalpindi “and discussed the present state of the affairs”, the newspaper said.

Musharraf has been kept out of the loop in the decision-making process since the PPP-led government took office after the February elections that swept the PML-Q out of office.

The president, who had been an ardent backer of the previous dispensation, had also been blocked from delivering his customary address to the inaugural joint session of parliament in March.

On the other hand, relations between the PPP and principal coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif have been frosty after the PPP reneged on its promise to reinstate Supreme Court judges Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency in November last year.

This prompted the PML-N to pull its ministers out of the government of Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani even as it remained in the coalition.

The government then took the back route on the sacked judges by raising the Supreme Court strength from 16 to 29 to accommodate the new bench Musharraf had installed under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) promulgated along with the emergency.

This was done through the Finance Bill for fiscal 2008-09 that began July 1 but the PML-N abstained from voting on this.

The physical reinstatement of the previous bench has yet to take place as PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari apparently fears that sacked chief justice Ifthikar Mohammad Chaudhary, who would return as an ordinary judge of the Supreme Court, could rally around his colleagues to bring an impeachment motion against Musharraf.

The PML-N has been stridently demanding Musharraf’s impeachment but the PPP has maintained a stoic silence on this - reportedly due to a “deal” struck at Washington’s instance between the president and Zardari’s slain wife and former prime minister Benzair Bhutto.

Bhutto’s killing Dec 27 in a gun-and-bomb attack in Rawalpindi had pushed back the elections by a month.

Pakistani Army chief General Parvez Ashfaq Kiyani, to go by reports circulating here, had brokered the Musharraf-Bhutto deal. Kiyani served as Bhutto’s military secretary when she was in office in the mid-1990s.

Just how estranged Pakistan’s principle coalition partners are can be gauged from the fact that Nawaz Sharif stayed away from a meeting of the allies that Gilani called here Thursday to discuss the situation in the troubled North West Frontier Province (NWFP) and other issues facing the nation.

Nawaz, instead, sent his brother Shahbaz Sharif, chief minister of Punjab province, to represent the PML-N.

The PPP and the PML-N have 121 and 91 seats respectively in the 342-member National Assembly, the lower house of parliament. Junior coalition partners Awami National Party (ANP) and Jamiat-ul-Ulama-i-Islam (JUI), who have 13 and six seats respectively, have also been grumbling about not being provided with adequate spoils of office.

During their meetings with Musharraf, Hussain and Elahi, who are brothers and powerful satraps of Punjab’s Gujrat region, assured him “that they would continue to support him in case the ruling coalition decided to impeach him”, The News said.

On his part, Musharraf said “that he would support the government in its efforts to overcome the twin problems of terrorism and the economic downturn,” the newspaper added.

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