Sharif, Gilani back as a team


Islamabad : It’s official: Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani are back together as a team though the contours of their revived friendship are yet to be defined.

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They sealed their pact at a luncheon meeting at Sharif’s country villa on the outskirts of Lahore Sunday and made it official Monday with the former prime minister declaring his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) would join hands with Gilani’s Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) “for changing the destiny of the nation”.

The declaration came at a general council meeting of the PML-N, a week after Sharif had forced the government’s hand in restoring Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and the 60-odd Supreme Court and High Court judges then president Pervez Musharraf had sacked after declaring an emergency Nov 3, 2007.

The judges’ restoration, Sharif maintained, was just the beginning.

“Now all political parties, including the PPP, should sit together to ensure the provision of justice, elimination of lawlessness, unemployment, poverty and load shedding from the country,” he stated.

He also stressed the need for “reviving relationship with India and holding talks with it to resolve the Kashmir dispute peacefully”, The News reported Tuesday.

But as the newspaper noted in an editorial, “there are also other ramifications to all this.

“The PML-N chief has made it quite clear that while he is willing to work with Mr. Gilani, he has differences with President (Asif Ali) Zardari. The PPP then is quite obviously being seen as an entity with two heads; a kind of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde identity.

“It has yet to be seen if they will choose to pull in opposite directions, and if so, how strongly,” maintained the editorial, headlined “Lines of friendship”.

Holding that the success of the Sunday meeting means that Gilani “continues to gain in poise and confidence, emerging as a leader who stands beyond the shadows of the presidency”, the editorial said: “This too could prove immensely significant in the days ahead.

“There is a great likelihood that Mr. Zardari is not too pleased,” it added.

At the same time, the editorial said, there is “a possibility that things may work out towards a brighter future.

“The key to this is restoring the full sovereignty of parliament and ending a system where decisions are made by a small coterie of individuals, many of them with vested interests,” The News said.

The reference was to the controversial 17th amendment to the constitution that Musharraf had pushed through in 2003, transferring key powers from the prime minister’s office to the presidency.

These included the power to dismiss the federal and provincial governments and their legislatures, as also to appoint the service chiefs and the chief justice.

The PPP and the PML-N, which had formed a coalition after their one-two finish at the February 2008 general elections, had also agreed on a governance agenda that included the reinstatement of the sacked judges and the repeal of the 17th amendment.

Zardari, who is also the PPP co-chair, reneged on the pledges, prompting the PML-N to walk out of the coalition.

Gilani is on record as saying that he favours the repeal of the 17th amendment and the restoration of parliament’s powers. Now, with the PML-N back on board and the government regaining its two-thirds majority in parliament, that is a distinct possibility.

Once that happens, Zardari will be left with only ceremonial powers.