Top Pakistani parties agree on coalition set-up
Exactly after one year since Pakistan plunged in judicial crisis with suspension of the chief judge of the country, the two top political parties, which are going to form new government in Islamabad, Sunday announced to reinstate the deposed judges through a parliamentary resolution within 30 days after formation of the government.
Addressing a press conference at Pearl Continental Hotel, Bhurban, after their meeting at residence of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at hill resort near capital Islamabad, Sharif and Pakistan People's Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Zardari announced that the Sharif-led Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would be part of the federal government and similarly the PPP would share the PML-N dispensation in the Punjab, the largest province of the country.
In the February 18 general election, the PPP emerged as the largest party in the National Assembly while the PML-N secured the highest number of seats in the Punjab Assembly.
Zardari and Sharif signed a joint declaration titled 'PPP-PML-N summit declaration Murree' during a joint press conference. In the joint declaration both the parties agreed upon the reinstatement of the deposed judges through the newly elected Parliament within 30 days after the formation of federal government.
Nominee of PPP for slot of PM will be fully supported by the coalition parties but the PM nominee should carry forward the agenda of both the parties.
Sharif and Zardari announced that National Assembly speaker and deputy speaker would belong to the PPP while the slots in the Punjab Assembly would go to the PML-N. Sharif said that such a person would be named prime minister of the country, who would have the ability to run the affairs of the country in keeping with the joint mandate of the two parties.
On the issue of presidential power to dissolve the assembly, Sharif told reporters that the charter of democracy, which was signed by slain Benazir Bhutto and Sharif in London before their arrival in Pakistan, would be implemented in its letter and spirit because it would pave the way for restoration of the 1973 Constitution in its original shape.
About administration of oath by President Pervez Musharraf to the federal ministers and nominees of PML-N joining the federal cabinet, Sharif said: "Something will have to be done despite not wanting to do so."
When asked about delay in nomination of prime minister, Zardari said smilingly that he did not want to turn the media attention away from him (Zardari). About absence of Makhdoom Amin Fahim, who is the frontrunner for office of the prime minister, Zardari said he had been invited to the meeting but he could attend it because of some personal engagements.
Even if the newly elected Parliament was a hung one, it was against the dictatorship, Sharif said, reiterating that Musharraf should accept the mandate of people and avoid creating hurdles.In the joint declaration, the two parties also demanded that the National Assembly session should be convened immediately. Zardari said it was a dream of Benazir Bhutto that the PPP and PML-N reach an accord and that dream had come true.
Zardari and Sharif also held a one-on-one meeting after a joint meeting along with the leaders of the PPP and PML-N. Zardari once again offered Sharif to become the prime minister but he declined with thanks and smile.
Sharif has already announced that his younger brother, Shahbaz Sharif, would be the chief minister of the Punjab. However, an elected member of the Punjab Assembly would be named for the slot until Shahbaz Sharif is elected to the provincial legislature.
Nomination papers of the Sharif brothers for the February 18 elections were rejected by the returning officer and they did not move any superior court because the judges of the superior judiciary had taken oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order and thus many in the country considered them occupying the offices illegally.
Black Flag Week
On the other hand, the lawyer community start observation of a 'black flag week' across the country from Sunday (March 9), the day when Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry was suspended last year through a presidential reference.
The lawyers actively participated in the black flag week activities for the success of the event with a view to show their strength and power and reiterate their demand for reinstatement of the deposed judges.
Lawyers' protest rallies, meetings and seminars were held throughout the country to reinforce their ongoing movement for restoration of the deposed judges.
The lawyers staged rallies and held meetings and seminars in Islamabad, Lahore, Peshawar, Karachi, Quetta and other major cities and towns of the country to condemn the November 3 action by the-then army chief Pervez Musharraf. Black flags were hoisted at bar buildings and lawyers wore black armbands.
In Islamabad, the lawyers, civil society members and workers of Imran Khan-led Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf staged a protest rally near the Judges Enclave, where Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and other Supreme Court judges, who had refused to take oath under the Provisional Constitutional Order on November 3, 2007, are detained with their families. The participants led by Imran Khan were carrying bouquets and wanted to meet the deposed top judge but a large contingent of police fired teargas shells to disperse the rally.But the participants of the rally, including children and women, were adamant and police were relentlessly use teargas to disperse them when this report was being filed.Earlier, the movement of the lawyers was perceived as a weak protest of few people and President Musharraf while addressing the nation on television had said that the protesters are only a bunch of lawyers and not the majority.
Contrary to the government's perception the movement of the lawyers kept gaining momentum and a considerable resistance was seen from the members of the judiciary as well.
After proclamation of the emergency on November 3 last year, the police contingents remained in and around the District Bar Associations for the whole two weeks and the lawyers were stopped from entering the premises of the bar.
Some TV channels and media persons were banned and they joined the struggle with lawyers conducting live shows at bar associations and on roads. About 50 lawyers were detained during emergency rule.
The movement is in its second year now and it is to be seen what impact it is going to make on Pakistan's politics.