Nawaz Sharif extends deadline on judges’ restoration

August 22nd, 2008 - 8:48 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 22 (DPA) The second-largest party in Pakistan’s ruling coalition Friday pushed forward its deadline for the reinstatement of judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf, as authorities set Sep 6 the date for the election of a new head of the state.”Our position on the issue is that a resolution should be tabled in the parliament Monday and after a debate of two days, it should be passed Wednesday followed by the reinstatement of judges the same day,” Nawaz Sharif, who heads Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told the reporters in Islamabad.

The announcement, which came after three of days of conciliatory efforts by the alliance’s junior partners, temporarily saved from disintegration the coalition led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP).

“We certainly do not desire to part away, we want the coalition to remain intact,” Sharif added.

He earlier said that his party would pull out of the coalition if the judges, including deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were not reinstated in their positions by Friday.

The wrangling between two major parties, the leading Left-wing PPP and the right-wing PML-N, on the restoration of judges has intensified since their common foe - Musharraf - resigned as president Monday.

The PML-N has argued for immediate restoration of more than 60 judges through a parliamentary resolution followed by an executive order, while the PPP reportedly wants reinstatement of all judges, except Chaudhry.

The independent-minded former chief justice, once back in the office, could reverse the amnesty granted to PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari by Musharraf over corruption charges. The charges relate to the period when Zardari’s wife, Benazir Bhutto, was the prime minister. The PPP has informally put forward the Bhutto widower’s name for the Sep 6 presidential poll.

However, the upcoming Wednesday deadline might further be extended by a couple of days, said Maulana Fazalur Rehman, a junior coalition partner, who has been mediating between the two major parties on the issue. “But the restoration of judges should take place within the next week,” he added.

Among other issues yet to be resolved by the alliance is its nominee for the presidential election, which according to an official statement will be held Sep 6.

The Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP) will receive the nomination papers Aug 26, said Kunwar Dilshad, the top ECP official.

An assembly in the southern province of Sindh, the stronghold of PPP, passed a resolution suggesting Zardari as the presidential candidate. The members of the second largest opposition party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement, which has a significant presence in the parliament, also supported the resolution.

However, the PPP’s main coalition partner, the PML-N, has indicated that it would favour an aspirant who does not have political affiliations and is preferably from a smaller province.

The squabbling between the parties has disappointed the public as well as Pakistan’s Western allies who wanted to see political stability in the country after Musharraf so that the civilian government could focus on critical problems like Islamic militancy and economic meltdown.

Three suicide bombers struck Thursday outside a military-run weapons factory in the town of Wah, some 30 km northwest of Islamabad, killing 70 and injuring more than 100.

Islamic militants in the country’s tribal areas, which have sanctuaries for Al Qaeda and Taliban militants targeting US-led NATO forces in Afghanistan in cross-border attacks, claimed responsibility for the bombing, warning more such actions will follow.

Pakistan’s stock markets initially welcomed Musharraf’s resignation but suffered a downward slide in the following days as the coalition partners locked horns on the judges issue.

The Pakistani rupee plunged Friday to a record low, trading at 77.10 against the US dollar.

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