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Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Pakistan celebrations must be tempered, papers say
17 Mar 2009 07:52:12 GMT 17 Mar 2009.
Source: Reuters
ISLAMABAD, March 17 (Reuters) - Celebrations in Pakistan over the success of a campaign for judicial independence should be tempered because a free-falling economy and worsening security meant significant political risks lay ahead, newspapers said.
The government agreed on Monday to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice in a surprise move to defuse a crisis that set Pakistan's two biggest parties on a collision course.
The concession came after the United States, alarmed that Pakistan was being distracted from tackling al Qeada and Taliban militants on its Afghan border, said U.S. aid could be at risk unless the looming confrontation ended. [ID:nN16310450]
Tension will linger between President Asif Ali Zardari and his main rival, opposition leader and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, analysts say. The parties have long been bitter rivals.
"There is indeed plenty to cheer about ... but amidst the rejoicing, there is also some need for caution," the English-language News said in an editorial on Tuesday.
The newspaper said there was a lack of clarity about what was planned for Punjab, Pakistan's most populous province and its politically most important, which both the two big parties covet.
The Sharif party's government was thrown out of power in the province last month and Zardari imposed central rule there after a Supreme Court ruling barred Sharif and his brother, who until then was the province's chief minister, from elected office.
"The immediate need is to reintroduce democracy in the country's largest province, allow its assembly to meet as soon as possible and elect its leader," the News said.
The liberal Daily Times said the end of the agitation over the judge would allow the government to focus on the economy that had been severely damaged by the political crisis, and on the battle against terrorism "that we are not winning".
A reminder of that came on Monday evening when a suspected suicide bomber killed seven people in the city of Rawalpindi.
Pakistan's main stock index <.KSE>, which has been hurt by political worry, celebrated the end of the confrontation on Monday with a 5.4 percent gain.
The index, which had fallen 1.9 percent this year after a 58.3 percent slide last year, was up more than 1 percent on Tuesday morning.
"Now the Zardari government should have the space to move forward and address other pressing issues ... we could go back to a situation of more political harmony, an absolute necessity at a time of grave political crisis," the Daily Times said.
The Dawn newspaper said it was up to the government to extend an olive branch and resolve the situation in Punjab, where Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League - Nawaz (PML-N) party could not be shut out of power.
The risk if that did not happen was more agitation and a "political slug-fest" between the two big parties, Dawn said.
The Nation newspaper said several issues had to be resolved to prevent a resumption of hostilities, foremost among them being the powers of the president.
Zardari had promised to give up the sweeping powers that former president Pervez Musharraf assumed, including the power dismiss the National Assembly.
"The proverbial sword of Damocles hanging over parliament ... must be removed," the Nation said.
"Suffice it to say, the economy cannot afford another bout of turmoil," it said.
(Writing by Robert Birsel; Editing by Paul Tait)

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