Future of Pakistan coalition in balance, Sharif still in Dubai (Lead)April 30th, 2008 - 3:20 pm ICT by admin
By Aroonim Bhuyan and Muhammad Najeeb
Dubai/Islamabad, April 30 (IANS) Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif are scheduled to hold a crucial meeting in Dubai on restoration of judges in Pakistan Wednesday afternoon. The outcome may well decide the future of Pakistan’s ruling coalition. Former prime minister and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader Nawaz Sharif arrived in Dubai Tuesday night in a last ditch bid to work out a solution with Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari over the issue of of judges who were deposed after the imposition of emergency by President Pervez Musharraf last November.
Sharif told reporters on arrival that though he knew there was very little time left for a decision - the deadline set by the coalition for restoration of judges expires Wednesday night - he hoped that he could work out a solution with Zardari during the meeting.
Dubai-based Pakistani TV channel Geo TV, quoting unnamed sources, said that PML-N leaders had made it clear to Zardari that they could quit the government after Wednesday evening if a solution to the issue was not found.
“If not resolved, the situation (in Pakistan) will once again lead to a political crisis,” reports quoted unidentified analysts as saying.
Sharif and Zardari are to discuss two crucial issues - reinstatement of judges of higher judiciary, who were sacked after imposition of emergency last November, and the future of President Musharraf.
Talks between the two parties remained inconclusive Monday night.
Leaders of both parties first met for over four hours at the residence of Zardari in Dubai Monday evening and then continued the meeting at a nearby hotel till late into the night. Besides Zardari, those representing the PPP were Law Minister Farooq Naek, adviser to the prime minister on interior affairs Rehman Malik, and Shipping Minister Syed Naved Qamar.
From the PML-N, its president Shahbaz Sharif, Communications Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Petroleum Minister Khawaja Asif and attorney general of Punjab Khawaja Harris were present.
The talks are seen as crucial to the newly formed coalition, as the PML-N is determined to undo the decisions of Musharraf and assert the democratically elected government’s authority, while the PPP is not too keen on linking constitutional reforms and restoration of judges.
PML-N sources said party leaders wanted the judges to be restored within the set deadline as they believed any delay would leave a bad impression on the lawyers’ community in particular and the public in general.
“We may take unilateral action and move a resolution in parliament for the restoration of the judges if the PPP refuses to restore them,” PML-N leader Jaffer Iqbal told ARY television channel.
Another PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, said the party may give a few days to the PPP to reinstate the judges after the April 30 deadline expires.
“If they still refuse to restore the judges, the PML-N will consider options like sitting in the opposition,” he said.
Earlier, in Islamabad Law Minister Naek had expressed hope that the outcome of the meeting would be “positive”.
Naek told reporters in Islamabad that there was complete agreement between the two parties on the restoration of judges. Both groups had formed a joint committee to draw up a mechanism for the purpose.
Naek said both parties had reviewed the recommendations regarding the judges’ reinstatement in detail and the committee had drafted a few proposals.
However, sources in the ruling coalition told IANS in Islamabad that the committee could not agree on one formula and “there are huge differences between the parties”.
The two sides differ widely over the modalities of restoring the judges, especially the proposed constitutional package that envisages fixing the tenure for the chief justice. The PML-N is averse to the idea of fixing any tenure for the post.
Moreover, the PPP wants to club the constitution package for curtailing the powers of the president and the resolution to restore the judges, while the PML-N does not want to link the two issues.
There are doubts about the outcome of the meeting as Zardari has been saying that the judges gave him no relief when he was jailed. Zardari, the widower of the slain PPP chief Benazir Bhutto, was arrested in November 1996 when the PPP government was sacked by the then president Farooq Leghari. He was released in 2004.
Before the formation of the government last month, both PPP and PML-N signed a declaration that they would reinstate the sacked judges within 30 days of assuming power.
Talking to reporters in Lahore before leaving for Dubai, Shahbaz Sharif said his party had taken a clear stand that the issue of the judges’ reinstatement should not be linked with the constitutional package that is meant to undo the amendments made by Musharraf and to cut his powers.
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