True to the apprehensions that the PPP-PML-N coalition might not survive for long after the two parties' common goal of getting rid of Musharraf was over, Nawaz Sharif is learnt to have declared that he would pull out of the four-month-old federal government if the deposed Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was not reinstated within 72 hours (from Tuesday, Aug 18 evening).
Sharif reportedly walked out of a meeting with PPP Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on Tuesday, Aug 19 and headed straight to his home in Lahore. The meeting was being to discuss the procedure to be adopted for the restoration of Iftikhar Choudhary as the chief justice, who had been dismissed by Musharraf on Nov 3, 2007.
Quoting PML-N workers, the New York Times reported that Sharif had delivered an ultimatum to the PPP led by Zardari to consent to the return of Iftikhar Chaudhry within 72 hours, or Sharif"s party 'would leave the government'. They added that by not agreeing to the reinstatement of Chaudhry, Zardari was breaking a written accord made with Sharif 10 days ago.
According to the paper, Zardari and Sharif have sharply disagreed over Chaudhary"s reinstatement ever since they became coalition partners. Sharif based his election campaign this year on the reinstatement of the judges suspended by Musharraf, including the independent-minded Chaudhary. A poll in June by the International Republican Institute, a Washington-based group, showed that 83 percent of Pakistanis wanted the old Supreme Court CJ to be reinstated.
But, Zardari has made it clear that he does not want Chaudhry back on the bench. He prefers the chief justice installed by Musharraf after he imposed emergency rule in November, Abdul Hamid Dogar, according to lawyers familiar with Zardari"s thinking.
The lawyers" movement that grew around Chaudhry as the ultimate anti-Musharraf symbol in Pakistan regards Dogar as an illegal appointee.
The basis of Zardari"s opposition to Chaudhry rests with a fear that he might undo an amnesty agreement that absolved Zardari of corruption charges, lawyers said. The amnesty, which applies to bureaucrats and politicians who faced corruption charges, was part of a package arranged by Musharraf when Zardari returned to Pakistan after his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in December.
Iftikhar Chaudhry was among about 60 Supreme Court and other high court judges suspended by Musharraf.
The departure of Sharif"s party, if takes place, would greatly weaken the government at a difficult time in this volatile nuclear power, but would not necessarily mean there would be new elections, said the US daily.
Pakistan"s ambassador in Washington Husain Haqqani played down the disputes between the coalition members predicting that the coalition would hold because all parties remained committed to the political order in place after Musharraf"s military rule.
“Coalition governments are by definition fractious. When they come together, there is bound to be disagreement on how to resolve certain issues and how to address certain problems," he said during a speech at the New America Foundation in Washington.