M A I N   N E W S

Split Wide Open
Sharif pulls out ministers
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif today decided to pull his party ministers out of the PPP-led government following deadlock over the reinstatement of deposed judges, plunging the country into a new phase of instability.

Addressing a packed news conference on his return from London after abortive talks with PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Sharif said he had been unable to convince Zardari on the reinstatement of deposed judges through a resolution of the Parliament in accordance with the Murree Declaration both signed on March 9 last.

He said PML-N ministers would submit their resignations to Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani tomorrow.

However, the party would continue to be in the coalition and not become part of the opposition. It would give the government “issue-based support” so that it did not destabilise.

Sharif’s decision would not lead to the fall of government as Gilani would have enough votes with the help of the MQM. But the collapse of the six-week coalition between the two largest parties of the country will spell a troubled political future for the country that is beset with myriad of economic, social and political crisis.

While Sharif said he was “very pained” at the decision to part ways within six weeks of the formation of the coalition government, Asif Zardari talking to a private TV channel from London regretted that Sharif quit the government despite his best efforts. He said he would return to Pakistan in about two days and try to convince him.

Addressing a news conference here, Sharif said his ministers would submit their resignation to the Prime Minister. However, he said “for the time being” the PML-N would not become part of the opposition or destabilise the Gilani government.

“We will not do anything to benefit Musharraf”, Sharif observed and blamed the General for conspiring to cause a split in the coalition in order to thwart the resounding verdict of the people in the February 18 elections. He vowed to continue his struggle to oust Musharraf, whom he termed as a usurper and not a legally elected President.

He said Zardari did not agree to reinstate deposed judges through a notification, but proposed a constitutional package to retain the present judges who had taken oath of allegiance to Musharraf under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO) after the promulgation of emergency on November 3. He showed resilience by accepting Zardari’s demand for retaining PCO judges, but only as ad hoc members of the court, which was not acceptable to Zardari. He said the constitutional package proposed by the PPP legal team would have undermined the independence and dignity of superior judiciary to which he could not be a party.

Zardari talking from London said his party would stay in the PML-led coalition government in Punjab and would never collaborate with pro-Musharraf PML-Q to form its own government. Sharif said he would face the consequence of his decision and not abandon the judges even if it meant fall of the PML-N government in Punjab.

The president of the Supreme Court Bar Association, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, in the meantime, announced that his organisation would meet in Islamabad on May 17 to decide on the future course of action. Lawyers across the country paralysed courts and staged rallies today to observe a black day, marking the first anniversary of the Karachi carnage in which 48 persons were killed in violence when MQM activists blocked the entry of Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry into the city.



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