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Nawaz-Zardari Summit to resolve judges’ issue

05 May, 2008

By M Ashraf Mirza

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The 30 day deadline fixed under the Murree Declaration for restoration of the deposed judges expired on Wednesday with no signs of early redemption of the PPPP-PML(N) pledge on the issue. The deadline has passed unceremoniously despite desperate last ditch efforts by the PML(N) leadership to keep the word given to the nation.  

PML(N) leader Nawaz Sharif hopped to Dubai after Shahbaz Sharif and his top aides including Ch Nisar Ali Khan and Khawja Asif failed to break the ice after prolonged deliberations with PPPP co-chairperson Asif Zardari on the contentious issue. Nawaz Sharif and Zari held a seven hour meeting on Wednesday only to agree to hold another round of negotiations on Thursday. Understandably, however, the proposed constitutional package was being deliberated on. It, however, seems that the PML(N) has shown flexibility in its position of the restoration of judges through an executive order as a consequence of the adoption of resolution in the National Assembly.

The very fact that Nawaz Sharif sent the PML(N) chief to Dubai and then himself rushed there to resolve the impasse amply substantiates the political analysts’ conclusion. It’s, however, premature to say anything with certainty about the possible outcome of the second round of the Dubai summit.

PPPP stands firm on its plan to address the issue through a constitutional package for reformation of the judiciary including interalia reduction in judges superannuation age, fixation of Chief Justice’s tenure and some constitutional amendments to bring about balance in the powers of the President and Parliament. A broader understanding on the fixation of four year term of the Chief Justice is reported have been reached between the two parties. The quiet prorogation of the National Assembly just a couple of days before the expiry of the 30 day deadline was quite meaningful and had left no ambiguity about the wide gap between the coalition partners on the issue of judges’ restoration. Asif Zardari has, however, reiterated that judges removed on November 3 will be reinstated without causing disturbance to the ones, who replaced them. He feels that the judiciary needs to be reformed in order to remove the legal and constitutional lacunae that are resorted to make the innocent suffer with rhyme or reason. Quoting his own example, he said that he himself has suffered for years on this count.

The issue of judges’ restoration was obviously not as simple as was projected by certain quarters. It has far reaching legal, constitutional and administrative implications, to which none with even an iota of wisdom can be oblivious although some elements are trying to be over-simplistic in their exuberance over the demolition of President Musharraf’s political castle with the defeat of the PML(Q). Such elements are ignore the ground realities that the President has not become vulnerable despite doffing the uniform and with the electoral defeat of the PML(Q). It’s certainly not a realistic and objective approach to conclude that President Musharraf stands isolated in the tracheotomy. Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani’s increasing interaction with him is perhaps sufficient to repudiate such a view. He attended President’s dinner in honour of the Corps Commanders and then invited the President to participate in the dinner hosted by him was, of course, a positive aspect of the relationship between the incumbents of the offices of President and Prime Minister. The outcome of his latest meeting with President Pervez Musharraf was still more meaningful as the two vowed to respect each other’s mandate and not to let institutional clash trigger between them. The two leaders discussed political, economic and security issues confronting the nation and also took stock of the situation about the question of restoration of the deposed judges, proposed constitutional package, price hike, food and electricity shortage and terrorism. They pledged to extend a helping hand to each other and work within the parameters set for the two offices in the constitution.

Positive working relationship between head of state and chief executive is essential for smooth functioning of government in any country, while periodic interaction between the two is vital for creation of an environment conducive to such a relationship. Pakistan knows full well the importance of good working relationship between President and Prime Minister after having witnessed the result of the state of confrontation between the two offices in the past that had virtually brought the country to the brink of political and economic disaster. The successive political changes in the 1990s decade had drifted Pakistan into an abyss as mistrust between the incumbents of the two offices reigned supreme. In the absence of interaction between them, their differences further deepened leading the country to turmoil politically and economically.

It was, in fact, a nightmare for the nation as the elected governments were dismissed after short intervals without allowing them to complete their constitutional tenures. Both the President and Prime Minister remained engrossed more in intrigues and counter intrigues rather than devoting themselves to the well being of the country. Pakistan was thus made a laughing stock in the comity of nations. Other countries took it casually and hesitated to interact with its leadership due to uncertainty about their future.

The meeting between President Musharraf and Prime Minister Yusuf Reza Gilani in this background was an important development. It will hopefully be a prelude to the development of positive political atmosphere to the good of the country. It’s, however, in contrast with what Nawaz Sharif had in mind. It’ established that Asif Zardari has certainly foiled his designs of plunging the country into a political mess. The meeting had a significance in the backdrop of the political tension that has emerged with the outcome of the February 18 elections with the emergence of Nawaz Sharif’s PML(N) as the second largest parliamentary group in the National Assembly and the majority party in the Punjab Assembly. Though Asif Zardari’s refusal to fall into his trap to confront President Musharraf has brought some element of sobriety in Nawaz Sharif, yet his twisted face still reflects his agony inside.


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