Sharif-Zardari talks inconclusive, to meet again Thursday(Fourth Lead)

May 1st, 2008 - 12:46 am ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Nawaz Sharif
By Aroonim Bhuyan and Muhammad Najeeb
Dubai/Islamabad, April 30 (IANS) Pakistan’s ruling coalition partners, discussing the issue of restoration of sacked judges, Wednesday decided to meet again Thursday, their leaders sounding optimism about positive outcome. Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari met over lunch and again later in the day at an Indian restaurant in the Grosvenor House hotel in Dubai, discussing the vexed issue over seven hours.

The PML-N delegation that was to return to Pakistan Wednesday night decided to stay on for one more round of talks Thursday afternoon.

“The progress has been made in today’s talks. There are certain issues that need to be resolved,” Communications Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali of PML-N told reporters.

Asked to elaborate, he said: “Some differences exist on legal and constitutional issues.”

The extended talks go beyond the Wednesday night deadline set by the coalition for restoration of sacked judges of higher judiciary. But Nisar Ali said: “The deadline is not so important. It’s a difference of a few hours here and there.”

“Inshallah, we hope to come to conclusion tomorrow,” he added. He was echoing the sentiment expressed by his leader earlier in the day.

“Talks are going on and I am confident that there will be a positive outcome,” Sharif, accompnied by Zardari, told reporters.

Asked about the restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf when he imposed emergency last November, Zardari refused direct comment but said: “Our coalition is very strong and there are no differences between us.”

Earlier, Sharif told the ARY television network: “Musharraf might be laughing at this whole mess (extended talks). But he shouldn’t laugh much because our coalition is going to continue and I will work for restoration of democracy in parliament.”

The former prime minister was optimistic ahead of the Wednesday afternoon meeting as well. “I am not under any sort of pressure,” he told reporters.

“I hope to have a successful meeting (with Zardari) and I don’t think the coalition government would be affected,” he said.

Sharif arrived in Dubai Tuesday night in a last-ditch bid to work out a solution with Zardari. Talks were being held in Dubai as Zardari had “some personal issues to attend to”, according to Nissar Ali. Zardari and his wife late Banazir Bhutto, former prime minister who was assassinated late last year, had set up home in Dubai during the family’s long years of self-exile.

Sharif told reporters on arrival that though he knew there was very little time left for a decision, he hoped that he could work out a solution with Zardari during their 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.

Talks between the two parties had remained inconclusive Monday night.

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 the ARY television channel.

Another PML-N leader, requesting anonymity, said the party might 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.

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.

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.

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