Declaring that he felt "terribly let down" by ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) leader Asif Ali Zardari, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif who pulled out of the ruling coalition this week says he will not compromise on getting the sacked judges reinstated.
“There is no room for flexibility on the issue of the judiciary. There was no room for flexibility on the impeachment of the president. And there is no room for flexibility on something that we have signed together, something on which we have given a solemn pledge to each other,” Sharif said in an interview with the English weekly Tehelka.
“When you have an agenda to strengthen democracy and make parliament sovereign, then how can you be flexible.”
Sharif pulled his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) out of the coalition in protest against Zardari's failure to reinstate the 60 judges, including Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, who were sacked by then President Pervez Musharraf last year.
Musharraf resigned from the president's post on Aug 18 to avoid the humiliation of being impeached in the National Assembly. A week later, Sharif also backed out of the ruling coalition.
According to Sharif, there had been an agreement with Zardari about reinstating all the judges within 24 hours of Musharraf's resignation. But, even after a week, no decision was taken by the PPP-led coalition government to reinstate the sacked judges.
“If you recall, even Benazir Bhutto stated that she wanted Chaudhry reinstated as the chief justice of Pakistan and to see the flag flying at his house,” Sharif said.
Zardari, who apologised publicly for not keeping his promise, had made it clear that though some of the judges could be reinstated a decision on Chaudhry would be taken later.
But, as Sharif sees it, “it is incumbent on the party and its leadership to implement what she said”.
The two-time prime minister of Pakistan also accused Zardari of pursuing the same agenda as former military dictator Musharraf.
“The PPP government seems to be still following the agenda of the dictator, Pervez Musharraf. It is tragic that the PPP-led by Asif Ali Zardari seems to be an extension of the same system,” Sharif said in the interview.
He also agreed with the view that Pakistan may well be moving towards a presidential form of government if Zardari gets elected to the coveted post after the elections slated for early September.
“Under the present arrangement, the president is more powerful than the prime minister. We wanted to change all this. We want to go back to the parliamentary form of government and powers of parliament and prime minister restored,” Sharif said.
He added: “Only those powers should stay with the president as are bestowed by the constitution.”
The PML-N leader, who said he felt “terribly let down” by Zardari, was asked whether he would call it a betrayal and replied: "If you say that, I won't disagree.”
Sharif did not disagree when asked whether Zardari feared that the cases against him, which were withdrawn under a deal he made with Musharraf, could be reopened if Chaudhry was reinstated.
“It has boiled down to power. In this process, they have forgotten democracy," he said.