Dawn : Nawaz puts his foot down

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Nawaz puts his foot down

By Nasir Jamal | August 23, 2008

LAHORE, Aug 23: Differences between two major parties in the ruling coalition — Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N — appeared to be widening on Saturday as Nawaz Sharif moved his deadline for reinstatement of the deposed judges forward by two days, to Monday.

He warned that his party would be “free to take its own decision if the new deadline is not respected”.

“We have asked the PPP leadership to let us know if it is prepared to restore the judges by Monday,” Mr Sharif told reporters after a three-hour meeting with a PPP delegation, which comprised Raza Rabbani, Khursheed Shah and Sherry Rehman.

The PPP leaders had called on Nawaz Sharif to seek his support for Asif Ali Zardari’s candidature.

Mr Sharif said he was bringing the deadline forward because “we were unaware about the announcement of the schedule for the presidential election and nomination of Mr Zardari for the office by his party when we agreed on Wednesday as the deadline for restoration of the judiciary to its pre-Nov 3 position,” he told a questioner.

Although he did not say it in so many words, he made it amply clear that his party would neither stay in the coalition nor support Mr Zardari’s candidature if the judges were not reinstated.

Mr Sharif has called a meeting of the PML-N’s central working and executive committees in Islamabad on Monday afternoon to discuss the party’s future course of action.

“It is not too difficult to move a motion for reinstatement of the judges in parliament, debate it and carry it the same day. If you don’t want to do it in 10 minutes, take a few hours and issue executive orders after the passage of the resolution in parliament, restoring the judges in the evening. We have given the PPP a roadmap and are waiting for their response,” he said.

“According to the Islamabad accord between us and the PPP, the judges should have been reinstated in 24 hours after the resignation or impeachment of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf. But it is unfortunate that this did not happen.”

In reply to a question, he said it were the people who had forced Gen (retd) Musharraf to quit. “I’m not a wheeler-dealer and I’m not aware of any other force that has played a role in the resignation of Musharraf. If we hadn’t stood steadfast to our principles and if we had stopped putting pressure on him, the general wouldn’t have agreed to resign.”

In a veiled response to a question, Mr Sharif also expressed his unwillingness to support Mr Zardari for the presidency. “We have told the PPP leaders to abide by the agreements, especially the Islamabad accord that clearly states that the PPP will get its man elected as next president if the 17th Amendment is scrapped.

“If the controversial amendment stays, a non-partisan person enjoying respect and confidence of all the four coalition partners will be elected to the office of the president,” Mr Sharif said.

Mr Sharif said neither he nor his party feared the PPP or Mr Zardari in the presidency. “I have a great deal of respect for Mr Zardari. But here we are talking of a principle. The powers to dissolve the assemblies should rest with the prime minister, and not with the president.”