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PML-N to 'swallow bitter pill' for democracy

Nawaz Sharif's PML-N says it may consider accepting a controversial law issued by President Pervez Musharraf.
PTI | By Rezaul H Laskar, Islamabad
UPDATED ON JUN 07, 2008 03:50 PM IST

Former Pakistan Premier Nawaz Sharif's PML-N has said it may consider accepting a controversial law issued by President Pervez Musharraf to scrap graft cases against ruling PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari if a package for "real democracy" is introduced.

"If a package for real democracy is introduced, accepting the National Reconciliation Ordinance (NRO) in the interest of larger reconciliation can be considered," said Ahsan Iqbal, a senior PML-N leader and close aide of Sharif.

A decision in this regard would depend on the "final outcome" on the constitutional reforms package framed by the PPP to clip Musharraf's powers and facilitate reinstatement of judges deposed during last year's emergency, Iqbal told PTI.

Political observers believe that the PPP wants to indemnify Musharraf's actions during the emergency and the period preceding it as it fears that the scrapping of the NRO would lead to the reopening of graft cases against Zardari. Asked about this perception, Iqbal said: "If we agree on a package for real democracy in the larger interest of democracy and reconciliation, the PML-N can swallow the bitter pill of the NRO."

Such a move, he said, would be akin to the "bitter pill" swallowed by the PML-N when its ministers took oath administered by Musharraf after the party decided to join the PPP-led government. The PML-N later withdrew its ministers from the Cabinet after failing to achieve the restoration of the deposed judges by the self-imposed deadline of May 12.

When it was pointed out that accepting the NRO would go against the PML-N's stand of not approving unconstitutional actions of Musharraf, Iqbal said his party could consider making a compromise in the larger interests of democracy.

However, he pointed out that the PML-N did "not support the NRO" and that Nawaz Sharif had not availed of a similar measure from the previous military regime while he was in exile in Saudi Arabia.

Musharraf had issued the NRO in October last year to scrap all graft cases against leaders of the PPP, including Zardari and his slain wife, former premier Benazir Bhutto. The law did not benefit Sharif or leaders of the PML-N, many of whom too were charged with corruption.

In return for the law, the PPP did not boycott the controversial October 6 presidential election last year, which saw
Musharraf re-elected for a second five-year term.

Iqbal said the real solution to many of the problems confronting Pakistan lay in the reinstatement of the deposed judges and the building of an independent judiciary.

"If you have independent courts, you can go to the courts with your problems. You don't need forgiveness then and you can prove your innocence," he said, referring to the trumped up charges filed against politicians by the previous regime.
Iqbal also said PML-N has finalised its recommendations on PPP's constitutional reforms package. These will be approved by Sharif before they are submitted to Zardari.

However, PML-N has objected to PPP's move to reinstate the deposed judges through a constitutional amendment. Iqbal said the judges should be restored through a parliamentary resolution and an executive order issued by the Prime Minister, as was envisaged in an agreement signed by PPP and PML-N in March.

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