February 22, 2008

Zardari resisted US, Presidency pressures – MUSHARRAF OPPOSES JUDGES

Filed under: POST-ELECTIONS 2008 — civilsocietypakistan @ 4:01 am
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FEB 22, 2008

Updated at  

By Ansar Abbasi

ISLAMABAD: In the post-election government formation phase, Asif Ali Zardari’s first love continues to be the PML-N though both the presidential camp and Washington are pressurising him to go for an otherwise awkward coalition with the PML-Q and other pro-Musharraf forces.

Background interviews reveal that Asif Ali Zardari has been offered governments at the Centre and in at least three of the four provinces if he distances himself from the Nawaz League. However, he told those who approached him that he did not consider the Q-League a political entity. Despite reservations of some of the PPP leaders from the Punjab against the N-League in the central executive committee of the party that met here in Islamabad on Wednesday, Zardari endorsed the idea of making a coalition government with the political parties like the PML-N, ANP, etc. Asif Ali Zardari while talking to this correspondent on Wednesday night also expressed his confidence that the two top-most popular parties – PPP and PML-N – would sort out the issues to make a workable coalition, both at the Centre and in the provinces.

Although, Zardari did not talk of Washington’s pressures, sources in the party confirmed that the Americans had brought tremendous pressure on the PPP co-chairperson to make a coalition government with the likes of the PML-Q and MQM but not with the PML-N.

The N-League’s foremost priority for the reinstatement of the deposed judges is not getting approval from Washington despite the fact that within Pakistan this is the most popular demand of the masses. Not only the Americans are directly influencing the party to make what many see as an “artificial” coalition government in Islamabad, some pseudo intellectuals are also pursuing the same agenda. An influential PPP sympathiser on Thursday issued a timely warning to Asif Ali Zardari to beware of such unsought advices.

The PPP, the source said, is not averse to the cause of the reinstatement of the deposed judges but only differs with the PML-N on the strategy. Initially, it was PPP’s slain chairperson Benazir Bhutto who publicly called the deposed chief justice Iftikhar as her chief justice and demanded the reinstatement of all the sacked judges.

However, later following the US pressure she avoided her demand for the judges’ restoration for quite some time. She went to the Judges Colony to meet the detained deposed chief justice. However, on the day of her assassination and while addressing the last public meeting of her life, she resolved that the deposed judges would be restored.

Zamarrud Khan, who was an MNA in the previous National Assembly but lost this time, confirmed to this correspondent on Thursday that Benazir Bhutto had committed at the Liaquat Bagh rally on Dec 27 that she would restore the deposed judges.

On the contrary, Nawaz Sharif vociferously pursued the cause of the judges’ restoration and in return got extraordinary response on the election day from voters. Even after the election, he did not change his tone or stance and resolved that the restoration of the judges would remain his top priority.

Talking to this correspondent late night on the election day, Nawaz Sharif pledged that he could never think of deviating from this demand even if he had to sit in the opposition. “Government is not my concern. I want to see the judges restored and would make sure that it is done no matter if my party’s political gains are at stake,” he said.

Against Nawaz Sharif’s popular stance, the PPP leadership wants to get this issue resolved through parliament and by devising a new system for judges’ appointment. The deposed judges’ restoration, the PPP sources said, is also on the party’s agenda but it wants the restoration of “filtered” judges. The party expects a National Assembly committee to do this filtering.

The PML-N, however, seeks the restoration of all the deposed judges. With this clear difference in the strategy, the top leaders of the two parties met on Thursday evening. Though the outcome of the meeting was awaited till the filing of this report, an effort has been made by some pro-democracy independent go-between to refer this question to a committee comprising the likes of Aitzaz Ahsan and Fakhruddin G Ibrahim.

Regarding the issue of National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO), a PML-N source confided to this correspondent that the PML-N leadership was willing to give it a constitutional cover in return to the PPP’s agreement to restore the deposed judges as soon as the government was formed.

The judges issue
Friday, February 22, 2008

President Pervez Musharraf has categorically stated that the deposed judges cannot be restored. “It is impossible”, he told the Wall Street Journal. The statement comes as the public demand for the release of the judges and the detained lawyers is reaching a crescendo with Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan giving a March 9 deadline for a long march to Islamabad, if the issue is not resolved. PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif is taking a hard line and PPP leader Asif Ali Zardari is inclined to let the issue be decided by the next parliament, though he wants immediate release of the judges and the lawyers .

Deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry has announced he will go and resume his work in his office the moment he is set free. He has said he will even set up court outside the Supreme Court building if forcibly stopped to enter the court premises. The issue thus threatens to blow up into the first test of strength between the newly elected and rejuvenated political leadership and what is increasingly being perceived by many as a lame-duck presidency. It will be next to impossible to physically stop lawyers from marching on the streets of Lahore and Islamabad under the new dispensation. Also, quite understandably, after such a resounding verdict by the people, civil society will not rest till it sees this mandate translated into real change at the very top.

It would thus be in the fitness of things that the main political leaders, Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, quickly decide their joint strategy before the issue becomes a major obstacle to the democratic process. The president still has the important card of delaying the first session of parliament and both the political leaders should first force him to start the transfer of power. The judges’ issue will ultimately be resolved but the process of power transfer must not be delayed or derailed because of it. Political sagacity, vision and patience of the highest order are in demand to get through these critical times. An issue which helped precipitate the downfall of the previous regime must not be allowed to block the induction of the new popular order. Hawks in the civil society must realize that they have to get to the finish line before they draw blood. A little patience would not hurt anyone.

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