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Thursday, April 24, 2008

Sacked Pakistani chief justice a stumbling block for coalition
Islamabad, April 24 (IANS)
Sacked Pakistani chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry has become a stumbling block as the country’s ruling coalition moves to keep its promise to reinstate all Supreme Court and High Court judges President Pervez Musharaff axed after declaring an emergency in November. It now emerges that Asif Ali Zardari of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which leads the coalition, is opposed to Chaudhry’s reinstatement while former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is insisting he gets his job back.
Rather conveniently for Zardari, junior coalition partners such as the Awami National Party (ANP) and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) are backing him.
“Zardari is not alone in resolutely opposing the reinstatement of Chaudhry but has the support of ANP and JUI,” The News reported Thursday.
“It has been widely known that these two parties are unenthusiastic about the reinstatement of Chaudhry, but what has not been publicly recognised is that Zardari is using their aversion to the deposed justices in his talks with Nawaz Sharif,” the newspaper added.
The PPP and the PML-N had discussed the issue Tuesday and had set up a six-member committee to work out the modalities of restoring the sacked judges.
Addressing a joint press conference after the meeting, Zardari and Sharif said there was “complete harmony” among coalition partners on all issues and the deposed judges would be reinstated in accordance with an accord signed by them March 9 that has come to be known as the Bhurban Declaration.
Bhurban is a hill station in Punjab, located 13 km from Murree.
However, a member of the committee told The News that Zardari did not want Chaudhry’s return, as he felt more comfortable with incumbent Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar.
“Additionally, Zaradri did not want to back out from any ‘commitment’ that might annoy any quarter, including the presidency and the US,” the newspaper added.
Given Zardari’s assertion that there’s no timeline for restoring Chaudhry and the other sacked judges, it is highly unlikely that the Bhurban Declaration would be implemented by its April 30 cut-off date.
“The PML-N, it now seems, is also prepared to compromise on some delay beyond April 30 and is unlikely to react too attackingly on this question,” The News said.
“If the PML-N wants to keep the coalition intact, which it no doubt desires, it would not take its stand to a degree on adhering to the 30-day deadline where its alliance with the PPP falls apart,” it quoted a source as saying.
“I think the contentious issues would be sorted out in the deliberations of the committee, which will remain under pressure to conclude its assignment without any delay,” the source added.

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