Monday, May 12, 2008
Pakistan's step backward
Pakistan took a step toward a return to political chaos today when former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and his party pulled out of the coalition that took control of the government six weeks ago. Sharif, leader of the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), announced the split after talks with Pakistan People's Party leader Asaf Ali Zardari failed to resolve differences over the restoration of judges removed by Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf last year, according to the Reuters international news service. Restoration of the 60 judges was the primary condition of the agreement by Sharif's party to join the four-party coalition, Reuters said. Sharif said his party's nine ministers would resign from the cabinet Tuesday. The alliance, reached after Musharraf's PML-M party was defeated in parliamentary elections earlier this year, was expected to assert civilian rule in Pakistan for the first time since Musharraf, then head of the armed forces, seized control of the government in 1999. Sharif, who was prime minister at the time, was forced into exile. Zardari and Sharif agreed in March to restore the judges by April 30, but the deadline was extended until May 12. Zardari is said to be trying to avoid a showdown with Musharraf, who removed the judges when he declared emergency rule last year.