Finally, PPP, PML-N sign power deal
In a historic accord, the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Sunday decided to restore the deposed judges within 30 days through a resolution in the National Assembly and share power at the Centre and in Punjab.
PPP co-chairperson Asif Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif signed the agreement at the Bhoorban hill station, about 40 km from here. Both met separately and in the company of their party leaders.
Both sides agreed that the PPP would nominate its candidate for the Prime Minister “who could deliver on the joint agenda of the coalition parties”. The Awami National Party (ANP) is the third partner in the coalition, while Jamiat Ulema Islam of Maulana Fazlur Rehman has also agreed to join.
They called for immediate convening of the National Assembly without further delay to pave the way for transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people.
It was also decided that the speaker and deputy speaker in the National Assembly would be named by the PPP and in Punjab by the PML-N.
The accord ends several days of speculation that indicated differences between the two parties on key issues of restoration of judges and the PML-N's reluctance to join the cabinet while President Musharraf is in office to administer oath to its ministers.
Sharif has maintained that Musharraf is not a legally elected President. It was not clear how the question of oath was resolved, but PML-N sources said its ministers would join as “advisers” who are not required to take oath. They will, however, enjoy the status of federal ministers.
The reference to PPP nominee for the office of Prime Minister "who could deliver joint agenda of the coalition" was interpreted by political observers here as expression of PML-N's reservation to a PPP front-runner in the race for his close links with Musharraf. Zardari is facing a tough choice, with Amin Fahim aggressively lobbying for the slot, while a strong lobby is opposing him on charges that he is too close to Musharraf.
A consensus is developing that Zardari may opt to himself fill the job after getting elected in a by-election within next three months during which a stand-in Prime Minister may be appointed. Media reports said Zardari asked Nawaz Sharif to name one of his party leaders for that purpose or ask ANP chief Asfandyar to accept the post. They, however, have declined.
Both avoided direct response to a volley of questions about the fate of President Musharraf and whether the new government would work with him. Zaradri said he was not thinking in terms of any individual but the relationship between the office of the Prime Minister and the President.
Nawaz Sharif said the nation had given its verdict against dictatorship and for democracy, and all concerned must respect it. To a pointed suggestion that both leaders seemed to have accepted the presence of Musharraf, Sharif quipped: “That may be your perception but to me nothing in our assertions gives that impression.”
But it was apparent that both leaders expected Musharraf to realise his incongruous position in the new dispensation and step down voluntarily. The two leaders referred to the charter of democracy (COD) signed by slain PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif in May 2006 to end military’s intervention in politics forever and lead the country on path to democracy.
They further vowed to bury their past rivalries and work jointly to restore genuine democracy and confront dire challenges faced by the country. Nawaz said the military dictatorship had left a distressing legacy of economic mess, rising prices, widening gulf between the rich and poor and deepening law and order crisis because of bomb blasts and conditions of insurgency on the borders. But both leaders expressed confidence that the new government would resolve these problems with the strength of democracy and support of people. Zardari appealed to the world to give the new democratic dispensation a chance. “The people of Pakistan have spoken for democracy and we hope the world to stand by the side of democratic government,” he said.
Sharif pointed to the poignant coincidence of the timing of the accord while recalling that on March 9 last year, a military dictator had tried to intimidate chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry to resign or face criminal charges, which the latter declined. That ‘no’ unleashed the unravelling of dictatorship and awakened Pakistani people to realise their dream of a demcoratic order.
On the draconian PEMRA ordinances that curbed the media freedom, Zardari said their repeal would be the first act of parliament. Asked how long parliament would take to undo the constitutional amendments made by Musharraf, Zardari said parliament would set the time frame.