Pakistan in crisis, ruling coalition splits (Third Lead)

August 26th, 2008 - 12:21 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 25 (IANS) Pakistan was plunged into fresh crisis Monday evening as its traditionally rival two major parties ended their six-month honeymoon, a week after they forced Pervez Musharrf to quit as president after nearly nine long years in power.Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif pulled out his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party from the ruling coalition led by the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) to protest the government’s failure to reinstate 60 senior judges Musharraf sacked when he clamped emergency in November last year.

“We have taken the decision after thorough discussion among the party leaders and after the PPP failed to fulfil promises made to restore the sacked judges,” Sharif announced after a marathon party meeting in Islamabad.

He said the PML-N would field former chief justice of Pakistan Saeeduz-zaman Siddiqui for the Sep 6 presidential election against PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari.

The PML-N leader said Zardari had violated the agreement they had by nominating himself as the presidential candidate instead of announcing the name of a person who was “non-partisan, nationally respected and accepted by the coalition partners”.

Sharif said that on four occasions the PPP entered into agreement with the PML-N but on all occasions they failed to implement the accords. “I am saddened to announce this but we are left with no other option,” Sharif said.

The PPP reacted cautiously to the announcement, saying the PML-N had taken the decision in haste and should review it. “We have all respect for the PML-N and we expect that the party will review its decision in the larger national interest,” PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar told IANS later.

He said, “We will request the PML-N not to leave the coalition as the PPP is determined to restore the judges.”

Mutahidda Qaumi Movement (MQM) chief Altaf Hussain said that for the sake of democracy Sharif should not quit the ruling coalition that had forced Musharraf to step down as president last week.

Sharif, however, said the coalition partners had taken the stand on restoration of judges of the superior courts and could not betray the masses who had voted for them.

The All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM), an alliance of about 20 smaller political parties, was quick to welcome Sharif’s decision and invited him to their fold. “This is a welcome step and we hope that Sharif will join the APDM for the betterment of the country and democracy,” said Qazi Hussain Ahmed, head of the rightwing Jamaat-e-Islami.

Sharif stated that from now onwards his party would sit on the opposition benches in parliament. He said he was not worried about the PML-N government in the country’s largest province Punjab where the PPP is the major partner in the ruling coalition.

However, an insider said that PML-N announced the decision to quit the government at the centre after securing the required number of parliamentarians in the province. “We have now the required numbers and have no fear that the government will fall if the PPP pulls out from the provincial coalition in Punjab,” the source said.

With Monday’s developments, political experts see turbulent politics ahead and think the traditional rivalry between the two parties will start again. They say the PPP with its government at the centre and the PML-N in Punjab will not allow each other to properly function like in 1988 when the PPP was in power at the centre and the PML-N in Punjab.

“It is certainly not good for the country, or for democracy and could prove a very bad patch in the country’s politics,” former Senator Shafqat Mahmood told reporters.

Afzal Cheema, a professor of political science at the federal Urdu University, termed it a “bad omen for democracy” that the alliance has broken. “We should avoid experimentation at this stage and not enter into dirty games,” he told IANS.

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