Pakistan’s ruling coalition under danger of disintegration

August 25th, 2008 - 12:38 am ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 24 (DPA) The break-up of Pakistan’s ruling coalition appeared imminent after the second-largest party in the alliance Sunday abstained from drafting a parliamentary resolution for the reinstatement of judges sacked by former president Pervez Musharraf.The marked decision came as former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his top aides consulted about their future course after the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) put the restoration issue on the back-burner by focusing on the presidential election scheduled for Sep 6.

Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) has been pressing for immediate restoration of the judges, including deposed chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, as agreed upon with the PPP, and set Monday as the cut-off date for the purpose.

But hours after Sharif’s revision of the deadline, the PPP put forward the name of its chief, Asif Ali Zardari, as the party’s candidate for the presidency and said all the contentious issues would be settled after the presidential elections.

“The meeting to draft the resolution is now irrelevant. Mr Zardari has indirectly conveyed to the PML-N that he is not bound to stand by the agreements reached earlier,” said Siddiqul Farooq, a spokesman for Sharif.

The PML-N is expected to announce it final decision about its support for the five-month-old coalition Monday evening after meetings of the party’s top decision-making committees.

Zardari Saturday told the BBC’s Urdu service “the agreements are not holy scripture that cannot be amended in wake of a fast-changing situation.”

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, a minor coalition partner, who earlier this week mediated between Zardari and Sharif to save the coalition from collapse, said Sunday the issue of judges was being “unnecessarily blown up” by the PML-N.

According to Sharif, the two parties had earlier agreed that all the judges would be reinstated immediately after the ouster of Musharraf.

Furthermore, they decided that if the power of dissolving parliament was withdrawn from the president’s office, the PPP would be authorised to field its candidate for presidency, otherwise a non-partisan personality would be recommended as the presidential candidate.

Analysts say the prospect of the ruling coalition’s collapse loomed large as Zardari was reluctant to restore Chaudhry amid fears that he would again take up challenges to a controversial law under which the PPP leader was acquitted of numerous graft charges.

Sharif had said that restoration of judges without Chaudhry getting back his job would be a joke. Nevertheless, Zardari is believed to be comfortably placed in the run-up for the presidency.

In Pakistan, the president’s electoral college is comprised of the twin-house parliament and the four provincial assemblies. According to a complex formula, the total number of votes are 702, and a successful candidate is required to secure at least 352 votes.

Apart from the PPP, a number of political groupings, including the second-largest opposition party, have also pledged their support for Zardari in the presidential election.

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