Pakistan’s ruling coalition to hold critical meeting amid rift

August 22nd, 2008 - 3:34 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 22 (DPA) Pakistan’s fractured ruling alliance was set to hold a crucial meeting Friday afternoon, a day after a major partner threatened to quit if the reinstatement of judges dismissed by former president Pervez Musharraf was further delayed.”It is an all-important meeting and it will determine the future of the coalition. We hope something positive should come out of this,” said Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the Pakistan-Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the second-largest party in the alliance.

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

The PML-N wants immediate restoration of more than 60 judges through a parliamentary resolution followed by an executive order, while the PPP believes the measure should come through a constitutional package which would also cut some of the powers of the judges.

The coalition leaders, PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N head Nawaz Sharif, gave a 72-hour deadline to the two junior partners, Asfandyar Wali of the Awami National Party (ANP) and Maulana Fazal-ur-Rehman of the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), to prepare a formula acceptable to both of them to resolve the issue.

The deadline was due to expire Friday.

Sharif said Wednesday that his party would have “no choice but to sit in the opposition” if the judges, including deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, were not reinstated before the weekend.

However, there were some positive signs that the sides might reach a compromise. Information Minister Sherry Rehman indicated in a TV talk show late Thursday that a resolution could be tabled in the National Assembly, the lower house of the parliament, Friday to restore the justices after consultations with the PML-N leaders.

The squabbling between the left-wing PPP and right-wing PML-N 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 kms 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 stockmarket initially welcomed Musharraf’s resignation but suffered from a downward slide in the following days as the coalition partners locked horns on the judges’ issue.

The main Karachi Stock Exchange was down by three percent in early trading Friday and the rupee plunged to a record low, trading at 77.10 against the US dollar.

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