Fate of Pakistani polls hangs in balance
As the interim regime is preparing for January 8 elections, uncertainty about fate of polls still persists in Pakistan because the opposition parties have yet not taken any decision regarding participation in the election or otherwise.
Two opposition alliances -- Alliance for Restoration of Democracy (ARD) and All-Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) led by former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif -- have yet not been able to evolve consensus on boycott of polls.
“A meeting of the APDM has been convened on December 9 in Lahore to take a final decision on participation in elections or otherwise,” said Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, a close aide of Sharif while addressing a press conference in Lahore.
“The joint committee of the APDM and ARD could not evolve consensus on the issue of polls boycott. We want restoration of pre-emergency judiciary before elections while the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) led by Bhutto wants to leave matter up to the next Parliament,” he said.
Nisar Ali Khan, a senior leader of Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), said that his party wants to boycott January 8 elections in case of non-acceptance of its demands while the PPP is proposing to launch a protest movement from January 9.
Perhaps keeping in view Bhutto’s insistence on participation in polls, Sharif Saturday hinted his party could participate in the polls. On his way to a pre-election rally in Gujranwala, Sharif appealed to people to reject the candidates of rival PML in the general elections. He blamed the PML leaders as the lawbreakers, violators of the Constitution and involved in illegal removal of Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry because they were in power when the emergency was imposed in the country on November 3. “We want to win the war waged by the judiciary by all means, as it is a war of the 160 million people,” a determined Sharif said.
Bhutto, who is in Dubai to visit her family, says the next Parliament should decide whether to reinstate the deposed judges. However, the two former prime ministers would meet again next week to continue consultations. There are also differences within the APDM on the polls boycott as Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), PML-N and Qazi Hussain Ahmed-led Jamaat-e-Islami are serious on boycott of elections while another component party, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI) led by Maulana Fazlur Rehman, is advocating participation in polls on the pretext of not leaving the field open for supporters of President Pervez Musharraf.
In these circumstances, it seems almost impossible that two major opposition alliances would take a unanimous decision on polls and ultimately Sharif too would be compelled to review his pledge of boycotting the election.
On the other hand, the lawyers and deposed judges are also opposed to participation in elections without restoration of the pre-November 3 judiciary and they are urging people of the country as well as political parties not to let them down by participating in elections.
But keeping in view intentions of the regime, restoration of the deposed judges seems next to impossible before elections because of differences within the opposition parties on participation in the exercise.
This would be equally difficult after elections because there is a possibility of amendments in the Constitution by President Musharraf before lifting of the state of emergency and two-thirds majority in the Parliament would be needed to undo the same for restoration of the deposed judges.
Ten high court judges again put under house arrest
Ten deposed judges of the Lahore High Court, who had refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO), were again put under house arrest and police guards were posted outside their residence in Lahore Saturday morning. Justice Khawaja Sharif, Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, Justice Mian Saqib Nisar and Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed confirmed to the media that they were again put under house arrest.
According to the deposed judges, they did not know why they were put under house arrest. Justice Khawaja Sharif said that all the judges who did not take oath under the PCO were put under house arrest. He said probably the step might have been taken to prevent them from attending a convention of lawyers under the auspices of the Punjab Bar Council in Lahore on Saturday.
Sharif brothers reject advice of Election Commission
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz Sharif, who is president of the PML-N, Saturday rejected advice of the Election Commission of Pakistan to approach the election tribunal of the Lahore Court against rejection of their nomination papers for January 8 election. Talking to reporters in Lahore, Shahbaz Sharif reiterated that they would not approach the judges who took oath under the PCO.
The two brothers had submitted an application to the chief election commissioner against rejection of their nomination papers, contending that their nomination papers were rejected without any justification because their papers accepted for 2002 general elections.
Shahbaz Sharif said they have received a letter from the chief election commissioner advising them to appear before the election tribunal of the Lahore High Court but they have in principle decided not to do so at any cost. He clarified that they had approached the chief election commissioner because he had not taken oath under the PCO.
Emergency may be lifted on Dec 15
Attorney General of Pakistan Malik Muhammad Qayyum said Saturday that President Musharraf would lift emergency rule and restore the suspended Constitution on December 15, a day before than planned. He told media that it would be on December 15 but he did not know why.
He said everybody wants the emergency must be lifted so earlier the better. He said may be it was because December 16 is a Sunday. However, President Musharraf’s spokesman said he did not know if the date to lift the state of emergency had been changed.