Pakistan’s coalition government to resume talks Wednesday(Night Lead)

April 29th, 2008 - 9:24 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Aroonim Bhuyan and Muhammad Najeeb
Dubai/Islamabad, April 29 (IANS) Pakistan’s ruling coalition partners, the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), will meet here again Wednesday to resume talks on the crucial issue of reinstating the country’s deposed judges - just hours before the 30-day deadline on the matter expires. The resumed talks were to be held Tuesday afternoon, but did not take place.

(PML-N leader) Nawaz Sharif is arriving in Dubai at 11 p.m. to attend the meeting with the PPP leaders. “Party leaders are awaiting his arrival,” said Shahbaz Sharif, his brother who heads the PML-Nawaz.

It is learnt that the meeting between Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari Wednesday could possibly be the last to decide on the judges issue before their self-imposed deadline expires in the night.

Leaders of the two parties have gathered here to discuss two crucial issues of reinstatement of judges of higher judiciary, who were sacked after the imposition of emergency in the country in November last year, and the future of President Pervez Musharraf.

Talks between the two parties remained inconclusive Monday night.

Their leaders first met for over four hours at the residence of Zardari here Monday evening and then continued the meeting at a nearby hotel till late into the night.

Besides Zardari, those representing the PPP were Federal Law Minister Farooq Naik, adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior Affairs Rehman Malik, and Federal Shipping Minister Syed Naved Qamar.

From the PML-N, its president Shahbaz Sharif, Federal Communications Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali, Federal 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 President Pervez 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’ margin 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,” the politician said.

According to reports from Islamabad, Nawaz Sharif left for Dubai Tuesday to take part in the negotiations.

Earlier, in Islamabad Law Minister Naik had expressed hope that the outcome of the meeting would be “positive”.

Naik 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.

Naik 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 sacked by Musharraf, while the PML-N does not want to link the two issues.

Naik said Zardari would meet former prime minister and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif after reviewing the proposals of the joint committee. After their meeting, the recommendations would be finalized and the procedure of restoration would be determined.

However, 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 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. The 30-day deadline expires April 30.

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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