With the deadline to restore the judiciary slated to pass on Monday, media outlets on Sunday reported that Pakistan’s ruling coalition have yet to reach an agreement on the issue. As a result of this development (or lack thereof), most news coverage focused on what this could mean for the future of the coalition. The Associated Press noted it subsequently increased “the likelihood the ruling coalition could shatter after just six weeks in power and plunge the country back into political turmoil.” The News similarly reported that “the chances of separation between the two large ruling coalition partners are getting bigger.”
According to a Reuters newswire, Richard Boucher, the U.S. assistant secretary of state for Central and South Asian affairs, met with PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif and PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari in London on Sunday, “although a U.S. embassy spokeswoman said reports the meeting concerned the judges were unfounded.” CNN quoted the embassy spokeswoman, Elizabeth Colton, who asserted to reporters, “The restoration of judges is Pakistan’s issue to solve. It is not for the United States to prescribe solutions.” Nevertheless, media outlets affirmed the two leaders, who first met on Friday in London, had not reached an agreement by Sunday. Reuters quoted Minister of Education Ahsan Iqbal, who said, “It looks now it will be missed…If the deadline is not met then the PML-N will be forced to review its decision to stay in the cabinet.” The AFP quoted PML-N Siddiqul Farooq who put the blame on the PPP, telling reporters, “The ball is in the court of PPP. We have tried our level best… but so far no achievement has been made.”
Although Western media sources were more cautious in their assessment of the situation, Pakistani news outlets underlined how this could signal the end of the ruling coalition. According to The News, it is “expected” that the PML-N would “announce its separation tomorrow.” The news agency noted that PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif “said the party’s parliamentary committee will be held tomorrow, where decision would be made regarding future course of action.” Dawn newspaper reported,
A visibly disappointed Nawaz Sharif made it clear on Saturday that if by May 12 the PPP failed to keep the promise it had made in the Bhurban Declaration on the reinstatement of judges, the PML-N would walk out of the coalition government.
So, it looks like an end may be near – however, it is important to consider the question – “What next?” Will the PPP continue to head the government on its own? What about the fate of Musharraf and former ruling party, the PML-Q? Moreover, if the PML-N withdraws from the cabinet, the consequent political turmoil could have serious economic repercussions. Given the already burgeoning food and power crises, these factors should be considered before coming to a decision. [Image from the AP]