Following speculations of a fracturing coalition government and “last-ditch” talks between top leaders to address the judiciary issue, [see previous post] media outlets Friday reported that PML-N head Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari set May 12 as the final date for restoring Pakistan’s ousted judges. At a news conference, Nawaz told reporters,
I want to inform the entire nation that on Monday, May 12, all the sacked judges will be restored…The National Assembly will pass a resolution, and the government will issue a notification in the light of this the same day, and by the grace of God, the judges sacked illegally and unconstitutionally will be restored the same day…”
CNN, in its coverage, noted, “The coalition government had vowed to reinstate the judges within 30 days of taking office — a deadline that expired Wednesday night.” The failure of the ruling parties to pass the legislation led many media outlets to speculate whether the new alliance was already cracking. Although Nawaz emphasized the new May 12th date in his statements Friday in order to quell these rumors, Zardari reportedly “shied away” from the deadline. The News reported, “Talking to a private TV channel, he said only the committee assigned to reach consensus on the issue could tell whether or not the resolution on judges’ restoration could be tabled in the National Assembly by May 12.” Moreover, news sources reported that other coalition partners [the ANP and JUI-F] have to be informed of the decision, which could further complicate the issue.
According to the BBC News‘ Barbara Plett in Islamabad, the question is now “how Musharraf will respond” the new deadline. On Saturday, the Associated Press cited a spokesman for “his party,” PML-Q, who indicated the president “may accept the restoration of judges if the government amends the constitution.” The AP added, “However, [Tariq] Azim [PML-Q spokesman] insisted that the judges could not be sent back to courts by the parliament’s simply approving a resolution. He provided no further details, and said the president was still consulting experts.”
Another PML-Q member, the party’s parliamentary leader Faisal Saleh Hayat, used the new deadline as an opportunity to undermine the coalition government’s credibility, questioning the legality of the resolution and terming the new date “as a repetition of the April 30 deadline.” He told The News on Friday, “Even after the passage of 15 days of adoption of the resolution in the National Assembly, the PPP has failed to implement it though it was on the top of its priority list.” He added, “We want that they should come out of this issue and concentrate on real issues of the people who are facing price hike and load shedding.” Although the MP’s reaction is not surprising given that much of the PML-Q were pushed aside during the February elections, he does have a point. If this new coalition government can’t even address one of the primary issues that brought them into power, (Moreover, if they can’t even agree if this was one of the primary issues that did win them the elections), then how will they address the more complex issues? [Image from BBC News]