US pressurising Zardari to back out of judges issue: PPP leader

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Islamabad, Mar 12 : Even as Washington has so far failed to support the Zardari-Nawaz's resolve to restore judiciary to pre-Nov 3 form, speculations are rife that the US is pressurising the PPP co-chairman (Asif Ali Zardari) to back out of the judges issue.

If a senior PPP leader is to be believed, the Murree Accord had created panic in the Bush administration, and there was an extreme pressure on the top PPP leadership not to implement what they had committed in the Accord.

"It will be a great test of Asif Ali Zardari to stand up and be counted in the face of the unprecedented American pressure. You cannot imagine what kind of pressure they are bringing on our party leadership," the PPP source said.

The Americans' reluctance to the growing demand for the judges' restoration was due to the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's suo moto notice on the issue of missing persons and his resolve to trace all such persons, The News quoted the unidentified PPP leader as saying.

Though the US embassy denied this and the White House as well as the State Department also stated that the decision by the two leading Pakistani political parties to restore the deposed judges was for the country's political system to resolve, Washington has not yet given even a single statement in support of the pre-Nov 3 judiciary's restoration, said the paper.

US ambassador in Islamabad Anne Patterson met Zardari on Monday, a day after the latter had signed the Murree Accord with Sharif. The PPP source said that it was a one-on-one meeting and that he did not know as to what had transpired between the two.

US embassy spokesperson Liz Colton, however, denied that US was bringing any pressure on any political leader, including Zardari, on the issue of judges' restoration. Referring to Patterson's meeting with Zardari, she said that the ambassador was meeting different politicians of Pakistan as part of her duty. The purpose of these meetings was to build relationship with a cross-section of the political spectrum, she explained further.

Earlier, on Monday, the White House and the State Department spokespersons had said: "This (the issue of restoring judges) is a question for Pakistani political system to resolve among the actors involved in that system, it should be resolved within the context of Pakistani laws and Pakistan Constitution."

According to the paper, slain PPP leader Benazir Bhutto had also once acceded to the US' pressure and had distanced herself from her demand for the restoration of the judges following a secret message from Negroponte, the US Deputy Secretary of State.

But, before that she had once declared in public the detained Chief Justice Iftikhar as "My Chief Justice". On the day of her assassination and while addressing the last public meeting of her life at Liaquat Bagh, she had committed to get the deposed judges restored.

The post-Benazir Bhutto PPP though remained vague on the issue but it was the Bhurban Accord where it was committed by both the PPP and the PML to restore the judiciary to the Nov 2, 2007 position within the first 30 days of the new government.

ANI

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