Members of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party will resign from their cabinets posts on Tuesday, in protest over failure to reinstate 60 judges dismissed under emergency rule last year. (Report: J. Le Masurier)
Former Pakistani prime minister Nawaz Sharif said Monday that his party had decided to quit the government over differences regarding the reinstatement of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf.
All ministers from his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party will resign from their posts on Tuesday, but the move will not destabilise the country's new-found democracy, Sharif told a news conference.
PML-N took nine portfolios in the 24-member federal cabinet, formed six weeks ago with slain former premier Benazir Bhutto's People's Power Party (PPP). The parties formed a coalition government after defeating allies of Musharraf in February 18 elections.
He called the talks after negotiations in London with Asif Ali Zardari, co-chairman of the PPP, failed to bridge their differences over the restoration of some 60 judges.
Sharif said the PML-N would not take any decision that would strengthen what he called a "dictatorship" under Musharraf. "We will not sit on opposition benches for the time being," he said.
“Musharraf wants to destabilize the political system in the country and see this coalition break up”, Sharif said in a telephone interview with FRANCE 24.
Sharif also announced he will contest a byelection on June 26.
Restoration of judges “taken lightly”
Sharif called for the “unconditional, dignified and honourable return of the judges”.
“We cannot keep setting deadlines to restore the judges,” he told FRANCE 24. “They were supposed to be restored 30 days after the government was formed and I think this issue has been taken lightly.”
Sharif expressed disappointment after the talks failed, adding that he had made sincere efforts but the deadlock could not be broken. "I am personally anguished over pulling out of the coalition government," he said.
“This is going to be a slight setback for the democratic process. But the restoration of the judges was the number one issue,” he told FRANCE 24.
Sharif had given a May 12 deadline for reinstatement of the judges fired by Musharraf under emergency rule in November.
“We should have allowed them long ago to take their positions as on November 2, 2007,” before they were dismissed, Sharif told FRANCE 24. He explained that his party had clearly laid this out as a condition to its participation in a coalition government.
Protests and rallies
May 12 marks the first anniversary of clashes between supporters of sacked chief judge Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry and Musharraf in Karachi in which more than 40 people were killed.
Several political parties and lawyers observed the day as a black day of protest, staging rallies in major cities and towns and shouting "Go Musharraf, Go". Lawyers boycotted courts and demanded the reinstatement of the judges, witnesses said.
Chaudhry has become a focal point for opponents of the president.
Musharraf, who came to power following a coup in 1999, deposed him and dozens of other judges in November when it appeared they might overturn his re-election as president the month before.
Reinstatement of the judges is likely to cause a major headache for embattled former army chief Musharraf, a key US ally, who considers them hostile to his rule.
Date created : 2008-05-13