The fate of the newly-formed Pakistani government hung in the balance as PPP leader Asif Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and their aides held several rounds of negotiations on the contentious judges’ restoration issue.
Late on Friday night, Sharif came out of his Park Lane residence to say that both the PPP and PML(N) had agreed to disagree on whether to retain the November 3, 2007, Provisional Constitution Order (PCP) judges on an ad hoc basis or accept them as permanent members of the bench.
Sharif insisted that the May 12 deadline to restore the judges remained sacrosanct for his party and that the PML-N was loath to give the PCO judges a permanent status. He gave the impression that he still believed a breakthrough could be achieved, while warding off questions about leaving the coalition. The former PM did, however. say the decision with regard to his party’s future relations with the PPP would be taken after May 12.
Sharif and Zardari were scheduled to meet again late on Saturday night after a round of talks between former Punjab CM Shahbaz Sharif and Rehman Malik, adviser to Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani, late on Saturday afternoon.
Central to the entire dispute is the restoration of the “sacked” Chief Justice Ifhtekar Chaudhry. It’s well known that President Pervez Musharraf, who ordered Chaudhry’s removal, is totally opposed to his returning to the bench.
Given that there were reports of a “deal” between the PPP leadership and Musharraf, the Chaudhry issue has proved to be extremely difficult to resolve.
In another development , Zardari met Altaf Hussain, founder and president of MQM, for almost four hours, starting with dinner from 8.30 pm and ending past midnight. After the talks, Hussain described them as a “silent tsunami”. On the issue of joining PPP at the Centre, Altaf said that the external and internal challenges faced by Pakistan had to be met jointly by all political parties. He had no problems in joining the coalition but wished that the existing alliance did not break. He urged both PPP and PML(N) to show flexibility on the issue of judges. “Nawaz Sharif should take a step backwards, and Zardari too should take a step backwards.”