AFP : Zardari acceptable as Pakistan president if strips powers: Sharif

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Zardari acceptable as Pakistan president if strips powers: Sharif

August 23, 2008

LAHORE, Pakistan (AFP) — Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif Saturday said he was ready to accept the widower of slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto as president if he does away with powers to dissolve parliament.

Former president Pervez Musharraf had strengthened his powers through a 17th constitutional amendment, which gave the president the power to dismiss the government and dissolve parliament.

Bhutto's widower Asif Ali Zardari won the unanimous backing of lawmakers from the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) on Friday but has yet to announce if he will stand in the September 6 poll.

Sharif, whose party is a major partner with the PPP in the ruling coalition, made his comments came after a PPP delegation met him to solicit his support for Zardari in the election.

"I have no objection over Mr Zardari contesting presidential election, if he removes the 17th amendment," Sharif told reporters at his residence after meeting the PPP delegation led by Information Minister Sherry Rehman.

Sharif said he had a firm agreement with Zardari on the restoration of judges sacked by Musharraf and clarified that neither he nor anyone from his party wanted to become president.

"The agreement says that next president will be after removing 17th amendment. The PPP will have a right to nominate its own president then," Sharif said.

Sharif said Zardari had also agreed that judges sacked by Musharraf during a state of emergency last year would be restored within 24 hours of his impeachment or resignation and lamented that it had not been honoured.

"What happened to your promise?" Sharif said, quoting from a famous Indian heart-break movie song from the late 1970s.

"It had been agreed that when Musharraf would resign or get impeached, judges were to be reinstated automatically within 24 hours," Sharif said and added that he had given a new ultimatum to Zardari.

"We have asked them to tell us by Saturday night whether or not judges can be restored on Monday or not," Sharif said.

Sharif said that he was flexible over Monday's deadline previously because the presidential election schedule had not been announced and it was announced without asking him when he was addressing a press conference on Friday.