Friday, May 2, 2008

Democracy returns to Pakistan

The post-dictatorship era in Pakistan took another step forward yesterday when the four political parties that make up the new governing coalition in parliament agreed to reinstate Supreme Court judges ousted by President Pervez Musharraf last November. Removal of the judges, reportedly on the eve of a ruling invalidating Musharraf's re-election as president, set off a political crisis that saw the return from exile and assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and led to the defeat of Musharraf supporters in February's parliamentary elections. Another former prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was forced to leave the country when Musharraf overthrew his government in 1999, also returned from exile to lead one of the parties in the new coalition. Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower who took control of her Pakistan People's Party, the coalition's largest member, held two days of emergency talks in Lahore that ended with yesterday's deal. "The meeting has made progress in a very positive way — we are now satisfied," Sharif said after the talks, according to the Reuters international news service. Sharif said a resolution to reinstate the judges would be introduced soon. "There is no ambiguity, there is no doubt about it," he said. "The restoration would take place through a resolution." A united government will help Pakistan resolve an Islamic insurgency along its northern border with Afghanistan and mounting economic problems.

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