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Pakistan: Zardari, Sharif meeting today to hammer grand coalition
Coalition politics seems to be the order of the day in the sub-continent, with Asif Ali Zardari meeting Nawaz Sharif, on Thursday evening. However, Zardari has not closed doors with Musharraf, either. The political situation is quite fluid.
TO HAMMER out the differences that are likely to come in the way of a grand opposition coalition, Asif Ali Zardari is meeting Nawaz Sharif today evening in Islamabad to discuss the modalities for coming together despite the inherent differences in their positions and politics.
 
While PML-N supremo, Sharif has been unequivocal in his opposition to Musharraf and wants his ouster, Zardari has been more circumspect of the two, he believes that business can be done with the General turned President.   
 
One issue, which is likely to haunt the government formation, will be the fate of former Chief Justice of Pakistan, Iftikhar Hussain Choudhary, who has been incarcerated since last year. 
 
Sharif had promised the electorate that Chaudhary and other judges would be reinstated but Zardari has been non-committal on this demand, partly due to his own compulsions.
 
It is in the backdrop of this dichotomy that today’s meeting assumes significance; despite the differences both the leaders don’t want to lose the historic opportunity of bringing back democracy.
 
Political pundits opine that the spirit of mutual give and take will ensure that some forward movement is made towards formation of a government. Though Sharif is adamant that deposed judges be brought back but he might be forced to come a few notches down from the political high ground, they said.
 
Experts are saying that it is likely that deposed judges could be reinstated only on the condition that legality of Musharraf’s decisions and presidency are not challenged. Possibility of both the parties setting aside the thorny issues to form the government is also high, as people want the democratic government as soon as possible, they added. 
 
Right now the priority is to form the government, said Iqbal Khan, a political activist, based in Lahore, “We want both the parties to form the government and get rid of the army rule,” adding people of Pakistan have not voted for PPP or PML-N, but democracy.
 
As both PPP and PML-N are arch political rivals, it is also likely that Zardari and Sharif will have to listen to their respective party leaders before making any concessions.
 
PPP has the highest number of seats in National Assembly at 87, whereas PML-N has 65 seats making them the most powerful parties in the parliament.
 
Despite their differences, it seems that groundwork for bringing them as well as the relatively minor parties are bearing fruit.
 
Asif Zardari, widower of PPP supremo Benazir Bhutto, told media persons that they are preparing for a coalition, which includes moderates elements. In this regard, talks have also been initiated with Awami National Party that has captured maximum seats in North Western Frontier Province. 
 
Zardari and Awami National Party (ANP) leader Asfandyar Wali Khan said on Thursday that both parties are willing to work together for the interest of Pakistan, democracy and supremacy of democratic institutions, and rule of law in the country.
 
“We discussed all issues and decided in principle to go together for supremacy of democracy,” Khan told reporters.
 
In what could be signs of political pragmatism, Zardari indicated that archrival Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), which has won good number of seats in Karachi, could also be included in this national consensus government.
 
It remains to be seen what would be the shape of things, but the coalition, which assumes power in Islamabad, will have to negotiate its future on thin ice. The final call on the issue of deposed judges will hang over it’s head as Damocles sword.
 
In case judges are not reinstated, the legal fraternity will definitely take the battle to streets and warning signs are already there.
 
Making their intentions clear, Aitzaz Ahsan, head of the Supreme Court Bar Association, said that the lawyers would hold a protest rally from Lahore to Islamabad on March 9, the day Musharraf fired Chaudhary in 2007.
 
Already protest rallies by the lawyers have elicited massive support from the public and authorities had to use force to disperse them.
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