The parties of slain leader Benazir Bhutto and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif have in principle decided to work together in government formation at the centre and in the provinces, where split mandates have made joint efforts by them necessary.
The decision was announced at a press conference Benazir’s widower Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif addressed together after a meeting that lasted a couple of hours on Thursday night. They said the PPP and the PML (Nawaz) agreed on the judiciary’s independence and the sovereignty of parliament.
To a question on whether the two parties would be sharing power, Sharif replied: “We will decide that. It's not an issue.” He went on to add that the PPP and the PML(N) were one on the revival of the 1973 Constitution, a move that will take care of the presidential powers under Section 58(2B) to dismiss elected governments. There was agreement also on the PPP’s demand for a UN probe into Benazir’s assassination.
In response to a question, Sharif clarified that he has not changed his view that President Pervez Musharraf should accept the popular verdict and quit the presidency.
To the same question, Zardari’s response was that the two parties had a lot of modalities and ground to cover on various issues.
On the PML(N) relatively belligerent stand on the restoration of the dismissed higher judiciary — a question on which the PPP has a more nuanced position —Zardari said that the talks were about joint governance.
“All issues are open to debate. We want to go to Parliament together,” he said. At the same time, Sharif underscored that the two sides have agreed to implement in letter and spirit the charter of democracy he had signed with the late Benazir.
At the press conference, Zardari appeared relaxed while Sharif was sombre. It's generally believed that it would require a lot of statesmanship on either side to strike a common ground on the judiciary's restoration and Musharraf's future, issues on which the Nawaz league is upfront and the PPP more calibrated.
Sharif presented a poker face when quizzed about the PPP's willingness to reach out to the pro-Musharraf MQM in Sindh and at the centre. But Zardari volunteered that he was looking at a government of national consensus. He said the attempt was to set up an inclusive regime.