Zardari, Sharif still at cross purposes over judges' restoration issue

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Lahore, Apr.27 : Leaders of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N), which head the coalition government in Pakistan, are apparently still some distance away from resolving their differences over the restoration of judges sacked by the previous government.

While PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari says that a constitutional package is being prepared to restore the judges and bring about judicial reforms in Pakistan, Sharif's PML-N) has refused to nominate any candidates as chairmen of the National Assembly Standing Committees, saying it will wait until the judges' restoration issue is resolved.

Zardari has said harmony is needed within parliament before all sacked judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, can be reinstated, as he "has no power to restore even a single judge".

What was most important was to restore the judiciary as an institution, the Daily Times quoted him as saying further.

Sources privy to developments within the PML-N also said that a message has been conveyed to the PPP that the PML-N would boycott elections for the committee chairmen if the coalition government tried to proceed on the matter.

The National Assembly has elected the members of all 46 standing committees, but these committees cannot start functioning until the judiciary issue is settled.

Such is the level of politicisation in the case, that now even parliament is under pressure to give a "good decision" in line with the demands of a section of the community.

A bipartisan committee formed to arrive at a text of the resolution restoring the judges deposed on November 3, 2007, has done its job and submitted it to Zardari and Sharif.

The environment is partisan, intent on dictating a decision that both parties want. A number of newspapers and TV channels are clearly committed to the "prescribed" outcome of the issue, which overtly restores the judges and empowers them to get rid of President Musharraf, says an editorial in the same paper.

The editorial further goes on to say that "if a revolution was needed against President Musharraf, it has already happened in the 2008 elections; after that it is the elected parliament which should decide what mandate it has and how it is going to carry it out."

Sources said the Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl are also pressing the PPP to finalise the members of committees. However, sources within the PPP said that the issue would not be resolved until the PML-N co-operated.

They said that if the elections of the committees' chairman were not resolved soon, the committees would remain incomplete.

According to Khawaja Saad Rafiq, Pakistan's Culture and Youth Affairs Minister, the 30-day deadline set for the restoration of the sacked judges may be extended by a few days if required.

He said that a resolution for the reinstatement of the judges would be presented to parliament, and added that the PML-N will quit government if the judges were not restored according to the Murree Declaration.

He said that the PML-N is willing to extend the deadline by seven to 10 days.

ANI

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