The second deadline of May 12 fixed for the restoration of the deposed judges is unlikely to be met in the absence of a consensus on the modus operandi of their reinstatement.
Background discussions with some members of a broad-based committee of representatives of the two main coalition partners, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N), and constitutional experts holding divergent views indicated that the final resolution of the crucial judges issue was expected to drag on further.
They say there is no harm in going beyond the cut-off date that PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif had announced, saying PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari also agreed with it after their Dubai talks, if the coalition is to be kept intact.
According to these committee members, the sticking point continues to remain the same that had been stalling the restoration of the sacked justices — the mode of bringing them back either through a mere resolution passed by the National Assembly or through supplementary laws to be enacted after its approval. “If the deadline misses once again, as indications are it will, the PML-N will publicly grudge but would take solace in the fact that it is gaining politically,” one committee member remarked.
He said notwithstanding its open threats to walk out of the coalition if the judges weren’t reinstated the PML-N was unlikely to go for the overkill, emasculating the ruling alliance, as it realised that such a consequence would strengthen and empower none but its archrival, President Pervez Musharraf.
Zardari is likely to fly back home some time next week while the deadline expires on Monday. Nawaz Sharif is expected to return to Pakistan in the next couple of days. The PPP’s view is that the PML-N would not rock the coalition. However, informed PML-N leaders say their party would leave the alliance by the end of the current month but would not rescind its support to the federal government. They are fearful that if they totally de-link their party from the PPP, the leading Musharraf ally, the PML-Q, would get an opportunity to cash in on the situation.
The perception that inclusion of Barrister Abdul Hafiz Pirzada in the committee from nowhere was meant to give representation to Musharraf in it proved correct. Pirzada, who had been saying from day one that the sacked judges could not be restored through an executive order issued on the force of the National Assembly resolution, stuck to his views in the committee. Combined with his opinion was the similar PPP view that led to the lack of consensus in the body, necessitating the referral of the matter to Zardari and Nawaz Sharif once again.
Senior lawyers and their leaders are of the opinion that legally speaking, drafting of the resolution was not a complex matter that would require weeks on end. They feel that it can be prepared in just a few minutes if there is will to resolve the issue without any further delay.
There is a strong view in a section of public circles that the prolongation of the issue is like the American acting as “good cop, bad cop”. They believe that because of the persistence of the judicial crisis one side was gaining while the other was losing politically.
While Nawaz Sharif has summoned his top negotiators, Shahbaz Sharif and Khwaja Asif, to London for another critical round of talks with Zardari, the PPP leader has taken along Rehman Malik, Adviser to the Prime Minister on Interior, who was under tremendous pressure in Pakistan for his role in the scandalous postponement of the by-elections. Malik has also been almost number one PPP interlocutor in the talks with the PML-N for the reinstatement of the deposed judges.
As the PPP-PML-N dialogue on the judges’ reinstatement has been on the bumpy road, Zardari has firmly been on a course of building bridges even with the PPP’s one-time political adversaries like the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) that Nawaz Sharif detests.
One of the main objectives of the PPP chief’s dash to London is to hold a rare meeting with Altaf Hussain. The MQM’s opinion on the judges issue is the same as that of the PPP and its allies including the Awami National Party and the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam. Only the PML-N holds the opposite view.