Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari faced another political headache on Monday as his government’s coalition partners opposed the passage of the National Reconciliation Ordinance, the infamous NRO.
The bill, which absolves Zardari and many other political figures of earlier cases pending against them, is being seen by many as a whitewash for politicians associated with the ruling coalition.
The NRO was promulgated by the former president, General Pervez Musharraf, as part of a deal with the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and other political players in the country.
Under this deal, in exchange for indemnity, Musharraf was allowed the option of being re-elected for another five years as President but to step down as army chief.
However, while the NRO helped bring back many political figures, subsequent events led to the resignation of Musharraf as president as well.
For most Pakistanis, however, the NRO is seen as indemnifying past actions and misdeeds of various political figures. Last week, the NRO was tabled in the parliament through a special committee constituted for this purpose. The committee approved the ordinance.
This week, however, many political parties came out and opposed the bill. Most significant was the statement by coalition partner Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which stated that it was opposed to the NRO despite that fact that many of its activists would have benefited from it.
MQM’s parliamentary leader Farooq Sattar, in a meeting with Interior Minister Rehman Malik, conveyed his party’s decision to oppose the NRO.
Politicians from other parties have also opposed it.
Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) leader Nawaz Sharif told a press conference on Monday that he plans to challenge the NRO in court.