Judges’ reinstatement hopes shattered: London talks collapse despite Boucher’s last-minute intervention
By M. Ziauddin, Dawn, May 12, 2008
LONDON, May 11: The PPP and the PML-N all but announced the end of their short-lived political honeymoon here on Sunday as their negotiators jointly told the media after their last round of talks that they had failed to bridge differences over the route to take for the reinstatement of the deposed judges.
Seemingly even the US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, who met Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari separately earlier in the morning, was not able to crack the political logjam facing the coalition.
Nawaz Sharif while leaving for the airport told the media that he was disappointed at the way the negotiations had gone and thought his party’s position on the issue was morally and politically very sound.
“There was a deadlock but despite our best efforts we could not break it. Every Pakistani will be disappointed by this outcome of talks which had continued over the last 90 days.”
PML-N president Shahbaz Sharif during a brief chat with the media after the last round of negotiations at a Marble Arch hotel that his party would wait till the expiry of the May 12 deadline before taking a decision one way or the other.
He said every effort was being made to save the coalition. He did not rule out the possibility of a last-minute reversal in the situation.
His colleague Khawaja Asif said that even if the PML-N withdrew from the government it would continue to sit on the treasury benches at the centre and support the government on issue to issue basis, “and the PPP would not withdraw its support to the PML-N in the Punjab.”
He said he would not say that the coalition had collapsed, “because we will support the government without being in the government.”
Answering a question, Shahbaz Sharif said that the two parties would never revert to the acrimony that had plagued their relationship in the decade of 1990s.
Answering another question, he said both the parties had tried their best to keep the coalition from breaking off.
When asked about Nawaz’s meeting with Mr Boucher, Mr Shahbaz Sharif said it was held at the request of the US assistant secretary of state at the Park Lane flat. “Mr Boucher also favoured the idea of keeping the PPP-PML-N coalition intact as he said the US was a well-wisher of Pakistan and its people.”
Answering another question, he said Nawaz was not in the habit of taking dictation from outsiders, neither was he ignorant of the importance of maintaining close friendly relations with the US, “but Pakistan is a sovereign country and he believed in taking all decisions in the country’s self interest”.
Pakistan’s ambassador designate to the US Hussain Haqqani said the talks were held in the spirit of complete cooperation and that every effort would continue to be made to save the coalition.
He reiterated that the differences between the two parties were over the modalities and not on the objective of restoration of the judiciary.
When asked if the party which opposed the PPP’s proposed method of restoration were to leave the coalition would the government then implement the Bhurban Declaration and how soon, Mr Haqqani gave a roundabout answer which in effect meant that the PPP believed in the independence of judiciary and that it would make all efforts to achieve the objective.
Rehman Malik said he was confident that the PML-N would return to the fold of the coalition soon. “We will keep their portfolios vacant.”A PML-N source said that during the last round of talks ‘PPP co-chairman’s remark to a Pakistan channel on Sunday that he was not prepared to undo one illegal and unconstitutional action by taking an equally illegal and unconstitutional step had come up for serious discussion.
However, the body language of all the four negotiators during the media talks indicated that they were not parting on an unpleasant note.
A source close to the PPP said that in order to retain the November 3 judges after the restoration of the deposed judges the ruling party was likely to table a four-line bill in the National Assembly to be passed by simple majority. “Otherwise, the president would have to be approached to issue a relevant ordinance in this regard, this the PPP wants to avoid.”
He said the PPP was expected to immediately take up the matter in the National Assembly which he believed was likely to be summoned some time next week.
The PML-N source said that party leadership had already warned the PPP leadership that it would join the bar and bench in their street agitation for the restoration of the judiciary.
There was no sign of Asif Ali Zardari throughout the day. Party sources said that after his meeting with Mr Boucher, the PPP chief left for Oxford with his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is chairman of the party.
They said Bilawal had come over from Oxford to spend the weekend with his father at an inconspicuous and decidedly a three star hotel near Hyde Park where Mr Zardari is staying.
On Saturday, Asif spent the evening with his family joined by Sanam and a couple of her cousins.
May 12: Khuda Khair Karey - Adil Najam, Pakistaniat.com
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