I’m powerless, says Zardari after seven hours of talks

May 10th, 2008 - 4:15 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Dipankar De Sarkar
London, May 10 (IANS) The two leaders of Pakistan’s ruling alliance have failed to reach agreement on the important issue of reinstatement of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, agreeing to disagree after seven hours of inconclusive talks here. Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari and his political partner Nawaz Sharif were joined by the country’s ambassador-designate to the US and several senior political figures for talks that began at Sharif’s apartment in an upmarket neighbourhood of central London and then switched to an undisclosed venue before wrapping up at around 11 p.m. Friday.

Zardari flew in to London to meet former prime minister Sharif, whose wife is in a hospital in the British capital, amid mounting speculation that the one-month-old government was facing collapse over the contentious issue of whether or not to reinstate judges sacked by Musharraf last year.

Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) who was ousted by Musharraf in a military coup in 1999, wants the judges to be reinstated. But Zardari, widow of slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto, has favoured a compromise with Musharraf and told BBC Urdu radio Saturday that he was powerless.

“For the time being, we are not breaking up that status quo. We don’t have the power. We don’t have the two-thirds majority. We do not want to harm the country by way of confrontation,” he said.

The two leaders have set themselves a Monday deadline to resolve the deadlock.

After the talks Friday, Sharif told reporters: “Basically there are certain points where there have been differences. We haven’t been able to resolve them yet. I’m going back to Pakistan tomorrow and then I will speak … we will wait until May 12.”

At the talks, Sharif was accompanied by PML-N president and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, vice-president Ghous Ali Shah and Minister for Petroleum and Natural Resources Khwaja Asif.

Zardari was assisted by Pakistan’s ambassador designate to the US, Hussain Haqqani.

Asif told reporters the two leaders were determined to check the return of “anti-democratic forces” in Pakistan and “that is why we are going to such lengths to save the coalition”.

President Musharraf dismissed around 60 judges in November last year and imposed an emergency in a bid to see off a challenge to his re-election while he was army chief. The reinstatement of these judges, many of whom are Musharraf’s critics, could see the legal challenge being renewed and Musharraf impeached.

At the centre of the dispute is sacked chief justice Ifitikhar Chaudhry, who not only opposed Musharraf’s bid for re-election but has also accepted legal challenges to an amnesty Musharraf granted Bhutto and Zardari in corruption cases.

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