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PPP hopes PML-N will do a re-think

PPP decides to keep the ministerial portfolios vacant hoping to bring around ex-PM Nawaz Sharif's party.

world Updated: May 13, 2008 20:52 IST

All the nine PML-N ministers on Tuesday quit the six-week-old PPP-led Pakistan government over the issue of restoration of judges, but there were signs of efforts by the two parties to end the political crisis with the Prime Minister refusing to accept the resignations.

PPP decided to keep the ministerial portfolios, except for Finance, vacant hoping to bring around former premier Nawaz Sharif's party which pulled out its ministers after the deadline for reinstating the judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf expired on Monday.

The ministers submitted their resignation letters to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on Monday afternoon. Most of them had given up their official security and other protocol arrangements on Monday.

However, officials said Gilani refused to accept their resignations and said a decision on the issue would be taken only after Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari returned to the country later in the day.

"A final decision about the resignations will be taken in consultation with the PPP co-chairman when he returns home," an official said.

Shortly after the ministers met Gilani, PML-N spokesman Siddique-ul-Farooq said his party could reconsider its decision to withdraw from the coalition if the PPP-led government took "practical steps" to reinstate the deposed judges in accordance with an agreement signed by the two parties in March.

"The situation may change and we may again join the federal cabinet but the first and foremost (thing) is that the PPP should take practical and concrete steps which are acceptable to the nation, legal fraternity and to the PML-N's central working committee and parliamentary party," he said.

The reinstatement of the deposed judges is the PML-N's "sacred national mission", Farooq said adding, his party would accept judges installed by Musharraf during last year's emergency only in an "ad hoc" capacity.

There should also be no reduction in the tenure of deposed Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, he said. "We cannot accept a powerless judiciary," he said. "We want to abide by the constitution and our mission. If that is met, we will support the PPP and (maybe we could) rejoin the cabinet."

Before calling on Gilani, the PML-N ministers held a meeting in parliament lodges to finalise their strategy and also consulted party chief Sharif over phone, sources said.

The PML-N has decided to withdraw its ministers but Sharif said his party would continue to give issue-based support to the PPP-led government.

The ministers told Gilani, who belongs to the Pakistan People's Party, that their participation in the cabinet was strictly linked to the reinstatement of the judges within 30 days of the government being formed, sources said.

The ministers told Gilani, who belongs to the Pakistan People's Party, that their participation in the cabinet was strictly linked to the reinstatement of the judges within 30 days of the government being formed, sources said.

Zardari has said the PPP will continue talks with the PML-N to get it to reverse its decision to quit the cabinet. He also said that except for the crucial financial portfolio, the other cabinet slots vacated by the PML-N will remain vacant and that he would wait for "Nawaz Sharif to come back".

The PML-N leaders who submitted their resignations on Tuesday are Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, who was senior minister with charge of communications and food and agriculture, Ishaq Dar (finance), Khwaja Asif (petroleum and natural resources and sports) and Shahid Khaqan Abbasi (trade).

Rana Tanvir Hussain (defence production), Ahsan Iqbal (education and minority affairs), Tehmina Daultana (women's welfare development and culture), Mehtab Abbasi (railways), and Saad Rafique (youth affairs and science and technology) also put in their papers.