Zardari blinks first,to appeal against Sharif ban

Pakistan government decided to challenge the disqualification of PML (N) chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from contesting elections,in a move seen as an attempt to defuse the crisis.

Written by Rezaul H Laskar | Islamabad | Published: March 14, 2009 1:08 am

Under intense pressure from the United States,the Pakistan government on Saturday decided to challenge the disqualification of PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif and his brother Shahbaz from contesting elections,in a move seen as an attempt to defuse the political crisis.

In what looked like a compromise with the estranged ally,the government of President Asif Ali Zardari decided to move the Supreme Court challenging the Punjab High Court’s decision barring the brothers from contesting elections. The government’s package of concessions to Sharif came in the wake of a telephone call from US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton,who told Zardari that “Washington wanted to see stability and democracy strengthened in Pakistan”.

“The federal government will file a review petition in the Supreme Court against the verdict of the Supreme Court disqualifying Nawaz Sharif and Shahbaz Sharif from electoral politics,” said a statement issued by presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar.

Among the concessions is a plan to reinstate the sacked judges including former Pakistan Chief Justice Ifteqar Muhammad Chowdhury,a key demand of PML(N). The government’s decisions came after discussions between Zardari and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani on a day Information Minister Sherry Rehman resigned protesting the restrictions on the media imposed by the government.

An official statement said the President and the Prime Minister agreed that the issue of judiciary and restoration of judges (sacked during the 2007 Emergency) would be “resolved in accordance with the principles laid down in the charter of democracy,” a document signed by former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Sharif,however,rejected the government’s offer of talks and threw his weight behind the “Long March” by lawyers and PML(N) activists who are expected to reach Islamabad on Monday for a sit-in outside Parliament.

Earlier in the day,Information Minister Sherry Rehman,resigned due to differences over the government’s handling of the media. Sources close to Rehman,a former journalist and a close aide of slain Pakistan People’s Party chairperson Benazir Bhutto,said she submitted her resignation after some leaders of the ruling PPP suggested that restrictions be imposed on the media coverage of the protest by lawyers and opposition parties. Her resignation followed a complaint by Geo TV that authorities had curbed its coverage of growing anti-government protests.

Shahbaz was unseated as the Chief Minister of Punjab province and Governor’s rule imposed there by the Zardari government. The Sharif brothers accused Zardari of influencing the court’s verdict against them and packing the judiciary with the President’s hand-picked judges.

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