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Friday, April 25, 2008

Zardari makes fun of ‘deadline’ on judges’ return
By By Ansar Abbasi 4/24/2008
ISLAMABAD: Both Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif have agreed to delay their immediate London visits to get the judges’ restoration issue resolved before things really get out of their control, thus, risking the collapse of the coalition.But the real catch is Nawaz Sharif wants to do the job before April 30 whereas Asif Ali Zardari is non-committal on this deadline. Reliable sources confided to The News that in their closed-door meeting on Tuesday, Nawaz unequivocally told Zardari that on the issue of the judges’ restoration, the PML-N simply could not afford to go beyond April 30 as per the Murree Declaration. However, the PPP co-chairperson jokingly responded that he did not have faith in the TV's (Geo) countdown. He, however, did not explain what he meant by this and if he really found himself restricted to act meaningfully before April 30.Nawaz, whose wife Kulsoom has already flown to London for surgery, told Zardari that he was postponing his London visit to ensure that the judges were restored. In response, Zardari told his leading coalition partner that he too had to go to London to meet Altaf Hussain but would delay his visit to reciprocate Nawaz's gesture.While things are shown to the media as being simple, there are still tricky issues that are required to be sorted out by a committee comprising representatives of both the parties and lawyers fraternity. Irrespective of what has been announced in the joint press conference, the two leaders decided to refer the resolution issue to the committee to deliberate on all aspects of the judges’ restoration. However, what was announced in the press conference was the constitution of the committee for the constitutional package.After the top leaders’ meeting, the two sides are now in contact with the PML-N, showing urgency for the early constitution of the proposed committee so that the resolution could be moved before April 30th.Sources in the PPP said that Zardari seeks some sort of agreement regarding the constitutional package from the PML-N without formally linking it to the resolution and before the tabling of the resolution and the restoration of the judges. It is the same package through which the PPP desires to reduce deposed chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry's tenure, the fact that the party has denied categorically publicly. The public statements and media announcement of these parties are far different from what is happening behind the scene and in their closed-door meetings.The PPP is enthusiastic about the constitutional package that would include fixing the tenure of the Supreme Court and High Court chief justices but would actually mean to target deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. The party sources said that the PPP leadership was not comfortable with Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry and desired to continue with the incumbent Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar. There are fears being expressed by some PPP sources that Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, being unpredictable, was capable of opening the NRO issue. The NRO, which is considered as the most-controversial legislation in the history of Pakistan for offering amnesty to a selected few, has greatly benefited Asif Ali Zardari, who was facing a number of corruption cases both within and outside the country.Regarding the constitutional package, the PML-N is of the view that such a package could be discussed and passed from parliament as well if only a consensus is developed between the coalition partners over the amendments proposed. The PML-N sources clearly say that they do not want even any subtle link between the constitutional package and the resolution for the restoration of the deposed judges.Most of the media persons who attended the joint press conference of Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif were not satisfied with the answers of the two leaders, particularly that of the PPP co-chairman, yet both sides were hopeful that things, on the issue of judges' restoration, would unfold as per the expectations of the people. Except for one PML-N leader who believes that the judges' resolution might be moved the next month after the lapse of the agreed deadline, others in the party are confident that the objective would be achieved before April 30.

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