Pakistan's ruling coalition undecided over judges' issue

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Islamabad, Aug 20 (UNI) Leaders of ruling coalition have failed to resolve their differences over the lingering issue of reinstatement of the deposed judges and on providing indemnity to former president Pervez Musharraf.

Local media reports said Pashtoon nationalist Awami National Party (ANP) president Asfandyar Wali Khan saved the day for the coalition by offering to play the role of a mediator between Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League (N), the main partners in the government, after Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif refused to relax their stand on the judges' issue.

Mr Sharif insisted that all deposed judges, including Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, should be reinstated immediately through an executive order in accordance with the Murree Declaration signed by the two parties in March, whereas Mr Zardari sought more time.

The sources said it was due to the intervention of the ANP president and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, the two other partners in coalition, that the PML-N had agreed to wait for another 72 hours for the judges' reinstatement.

The coalition leaders will meet again on Friday and Mr Asfandyar and Maulana Fazl are expected to come up with a solution.

Maulana Fazl indicated that the two major coalition partners were at loggerheads over the issue of judges.

''The two parties (PPP and PML-N) are facing difficulties and we have asked them to let us to play a role,'' he told reporters outside the Zardari House in Islamabad yesterday, where the coalition leaders had been meeting since Monday following the resignation of President Musharraf.

The ANP chief told reporters that since his party was not a signatory to the Murree Declaration and not privy to the negotiations held between the PPP and the PML-N in the past on the judges' issue, he had sought three days' time to discuss the matter with other leaders of his party.

He, however, denied that there was a deadlock.

According to sources, the coalition leaders also discussed the issue of providing indemnity to the actions of former president Pervez Musharraf and giving him a safe passage.

Mr Sharif categorically told Mr Zardari that his party would not become a part to any move at any forum to provide indemnity to the former president's actions. He said his party also did not support the idea of providing 'safe passage' to Gen (retd) Musharraf.

However, sources said, the leaders of three other coalition parties had adopted a soft stance on the issue of providing a safe passage to Gen (retd) Musharraf.

Mr Sharif said he had no personal vendetta against Mr Musharraf, but if he was given a safe passage it would keep the door open for future adventurers.

Mr Zardari had agreed to Mr Sharif's assertion but told him that there was tremendous pressure on the PPP to provide a safe passage to the ex-president.

A statement issued by the PPP's media centre after the meeting downplayed the differences and said the coalition leaders had met to discuss issues pertaining to the strengthening of democracy and political stability after the departure of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

It said that leaders of the ANP, JUI-F and tribal regions sought three days' time to consider the agreements reached between the PPP and PML-N on restoration of the judges.

''The meeting acceded to their request to discuss the issue of restoration of judges in their respective parties' meetings,'' it said.

PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said he was confident that the issue of restoration of the deposed judges would be resolved.

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