Nine ministers, from PML-N, have handed in their resignations from Pakistan’s new government coalition, which plungs the country into political uncertainty.
Nawaz Sharif (photo, from muslimmedianetwork.com), ex-prime minister, decided to pull his PML-N out of the government after it had failed to reinstate judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf, as promised.
The prime minister still has to accept the resignations. But an aide said that Yousuf Raza Gilani, Pakistan’s prime minister, is waiting for Asif Zardari to return from abroad, before accepting the resignations.
According to coalition leaders, the six-week-old government, created after the poll victory in February, isn’t in danger of collapse.
But to analysts, the pull-out is a huge set-back, that could lead to growing instability.
Nawaz Sharif and his main coalition partner, Asif Zardari, Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) leader, say they will keep on working together, and try to resolve differences over how to reinstate deposed judges.
Mr Sharif will though continu to support the government, on an issue-by-issue basis.
“We will not become part of any conspiracy to destabilise the democratic process” he said on Monday.
But Nawaz Sharif also said that his party would join lawyers in protest, who are demanding that the government reinstate the judges.
Reducing their powers
To analysts, president Musharraf could welcome a split in the coalition that has sidelined him since it won the elections in February.
A perception that Asif Zardari is working with the unpopular president, would also be reinforce by a split.
Nawaz Sharif’s key election promises was reinstating the judges. It also was his condition for joining the coalition. He wants the judges to get their jobs back, without conditions.
But Mr Zardari says their reinstatement should be part of a larger package of constitutional amendments, that would include reducing their powers.
After declaring a state of emergency, Pervez Musharraf sacked about 60 judges in November 2007, some sitting in the Supreme Court.
The judges had been sacked when the Supreme Court was due to rule on whether Mr Musharraf’s re-election was legal.
It had also been due to rule on a controversial amnesty, covering Mr Zardari and his wife Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in late December.
To analysts the coalition parties are deeply politically divided. The PPP wanted to avoid a confrontation with the president, whereas Nawaz Sharif was prepared for one.