A surprise move by President Pervez Musharraf to re-appoint eight deposed judges of the Sindh High Court (SHC) threw a spanner in the works of the ruling coalition, severely affecting their earlier agreed plan to impeach him. The day-long political drama appeared to be turning into a farce in the evening when the presidency deliberately leaked the news that a summary to re-appoint the judges had been sent to the president by the law ministry and a notification was being issued.
This was enough to annoy PML-N leaders who felt betrayed and left the meeting at a crucial time when a decision on modalities about impeaching the president was being finalised, sources said.
The PPP camp went into action and after intense efforts persuaded PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif and his colleagues to restart the negotiations at Zardari House. The fate of the negotiations remained uncertain till past midnight. The venue of the talks was first shifted from Zardari House to Punjab House and later to the Prime Minister’s House.
Till the filing of this report, PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif were at the Prime Minister’s House with their close aides and no breakthrough was in sight. A PPP minister, who is a part of the negotiating team, told Dawn that the notification about SHC judges would be held in abeyance till reinstatement of all the judges.
In a late-night interview with private TV channels, PML-N’s secretary information Ahsan Iqbal said that progress had been made and a joint statement to be issued on Thursday will give ‘good news’ to the nation.
On the other hand, the presidency in Rawalpindi remained active with President Musharraf meeting loyalists, political friends and legal aides to finalise the plan to deal with the impeachment move.
Besides the PML-Q leadership, President Musharraf also found a voice in his support from within the PPP as the party’s sidelined vice-chairman Makhdoom Amin Fahim warned the ruling coalition against impeaching the president. “Don’t do it. Don’t invite trouble,” Mr Fahim asked Mr Zardari in an interview with a TV channel. He was of the view that it was not a proper time for a move which could lead to confrontation among national institutions.
The leadership of the PPP and the PML-N after their six-hour talks on Tuesday had agreed to formally ask President Musharraf to step down or face impeachment and announced that they would meet again on Wednesday after consultations with smaller coalition partners to give the final shape to their plan.
Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (JUI-F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman also joined the talks which started at noon. He, however, left the venue after some time but returned late in the evening.
Surprisingly, the ANP was not represented at the meeting although a team of PPP and PML-N leaders had specially travelled to Karachi on Tuesday to seek support of Asfandyar Wali Khan.
Before the start of the meeting of the coalition heads, five members of parliament from Fata also called on Mr Zardari. According to sources, they promised their cooperation to the government but said they wanted to consult their colleagues who were not present in Islamabad on Wednesday.
A large number of local and foreign journalists spent the second day outside Zardari House hoping that the two leaders might address a press conference.
LATE-night reports quoted some leaders of the coalition parties as saying that a breakthrough had been achieved and the government had agreed to withdraw the notification about restoration of eight judges of the Sindh High Court.
input from THE DAWN