ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) – The leaders of the two biggest parties in Pakistan’s new coalition government will try in the coming week to resolve their differences over how to reinstate senior judges whom the president dismissed, a party spokesman said Saturday.
The parties of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and another ex-premier, Nawaz Sharif, have promised to restore dozens of Supreme and High Court judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf during a state of emergency in November. The Supreme Court had been about to rule on the legality of Musharraf’s October win in a presidential election.
The four-party coalition formed after the Feb. 18 parliamentary election has yet to work out how to reinstate the judges, however, raising questions about how united it is and whether it can curtail the clout of the U.S.-allied president.
Sharif’s party insists the judges, including Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, can be restored simply by issuing an executive order. Bhutto’s party says the matter is not that simple and wants a major overhaul of the judiciary.
Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower, will meet within days to try to resolve their differences, according to Sadiq ul-Farooq, a spokesman for Sharif’s party. Zardari took over the leadership of his wife’s party after her Dec. 27 assassination.
“There cannot be any retreat from the solemn pledge made by us” on the restoration of the judges, ul-Farooq said. “People voted for us because we had promised to undo all the dictatorial steps taken by Musharraf.”
On Friday, the government proposed legislation to lift curbs Musharraf imposed on the media in November. The move has been seen as the first step toward reducing the sweeping powers of the president, who is under pressure from the new government to resign.
Sharif wants Musharraf to immediately step down, while Zardari seems to be willing to work with the former army chief who allowed his wife to return home to contest the elections after eight years in exile.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup by ousting Sharif’s government, has said he is willing to work with the new government headed by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, who is from Bhutto’s party.
The president suffered another blow Saturday when the government appointed Tariq Lodhi to head the Intelligence Bureau, the main civil spy agency.
The agency was previously headed by Ijaz Shah, a close friend of Musharraf. Bhutto had said she believed Shah was conspiring to harm her, while Lodhi once served in Bhutto’s government.