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Pakistan coalition leaders agree over judges

Latest update : 2008-05-01

Coalition leaders Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari have decided to reinstate judges sacked by President Musharraf, Sharif says. Prior differences had threatened the coalition between the Pakistan People's Party and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League.

Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif said on Thursday after crucial talks with coalition partner Asif Ali Zardari that a reinstatement of judges that had threatened their alliance will take place as previously agreed.

"It has been decided and reiterated that the restoration of the judges will take place as per the Murree declaration," Sharif said after two days of talks with Zardari in Dubai. He was referring to their agreement in March to reinstate the judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf.

"There is no ambiguity, there is no doubt about it. You will soon see the results of the discussions," Sharif told reporters.

"The committee has made substantive progress on this issue," Sharif said of the negotiators from both sides, who met at a Dubai hotel.

"The restoration will take place through a (parliamentary) resolution. The details will be revealed tomorrow ... You won't have to wait too long."

Sharif will fly back to Pakistan on Thursday evening, an aide said.

Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), left the negotiations before Sharif, telling reporters only that the talks were meant to improve their relationship.

"This is Dubai, no politics," he said when reporters pressed him for an explanation.

Zardari is the widower of slain opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who lived in Dubai exile for years but generally kept a low profile in deference to the traditions of the emirate.

Sharif said earlier Thursday that he would not budge an inch from his demand for the reinstatement of judges removed by Musharraf.

"We cannot accept the November 3 action under any circumstances," Sharif told private Pakistani Geo television.

US ally Musharraf sacked the judges when he imposed emergency rule last November.

"We will not sit with peace until the judges are restored. We are trying our level best that we stay together in the coalition and together return all the judges back to their offices with honour and dignity.

"I am trying my level best to make sure we fulfil the commitment we made to the nation on the restoration of judges," Sharif said, referring to the March agreement between his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) and the PPP.

Sharif said the future of the coalition with the PPP could come under review if they failed to agree on the judges issue.

"Our parliamentary party and the central working committee will meet to decide about it," Sharif said when asked about the future of the coalition if the judges were not restored.

After seven hours of talks in Dubai on Wednesday, Sharif and Zardari agreed to meet again on Thursday to thrash out remaining differences.

With his month-old alliance with Zardari on the line, Sharif flew to Dubai on the eve of the expiry of a 30-day deadline to resolve the dispute.

The pair agreed in March to push through a parliamentary resolution to reinstate dozens of judges, but the PPP has insisted that judicial reforms also be part of the package.

It was not immediately clear if Sharif and Zardari agreed on those reforms.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, took the unprecedented decision to depose the judges ahead of a decision by the Supreme Court on whether to overturn his re-election as president.

If former chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is restored, he could take up fresh challenges to Musharraf.

Date created : 2008-05-01