Monday, August 25, 2008

Pakistan coalition breaks apart..

This is not surprising. As the article notes Zardari has broken several key parts of the agreement that formed the coalition. He chose the presential candidate without consultation and has not agreed upon re-instatement of the lawyers and chief justice who were dismissed by Mussharaf. While Zardari may be able to govern as a minority or obtain enough support to survive from smaller parties the political situation seems to be becoming more unstable. This is from the NY Times.

August 26, 2008
Fractious Coalition in Pakistan Breaks Apart
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — The five-month-old coalition government in Pakistan collapsed Monday when the head of the minority party, Nawaz Sharif, announced his members would leave the fractious alliance, citing broken promises by Asif Ali Zardari, the leader of the majority party.
“We have been forced to leave the coalition,” Mr. Sharif said in Islamabad. “We joined the coalition with full sincerity for the restoration of democracy. Unfortunately all the promises were not honored.”
The exit by Mr. Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, had been expected in the last few days, and was finally spurred by the decision of Mr. Zardari to run for president, in an electoral college vote set for Sept. 6. President Pervez Musharraf resigned last week under threat of impeachment.
The departure of Mr. Sharif, whose party sat uneasily with Mr. Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, is unlikely to result in immediate elections. Mr. Sharif said his members would sit in the opposition in the Parliament and try to play a “constructive” role.
The Pakistan Peoples Party holds the most seats in the Parliament, but not a majority. Political analysts said they expected it would be able to cobble together a new parliamentary coalition with smaller parties.
Still, Pakistan faces continued political instability that may distract from serious governance and serious efforts to turn back the growing strength of the Taliban in the northwestern parts of the nation.
The main problem between Mr. Sharif and Mr. Zardari was a profound disagreement over the future of the former chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, who was fired by President Musharraf in March 2007, reinstated by the court in July, and placed under house arrest in November. He was finally freed in March of this year, but has yet to be restored to the bench.
Mr. Sharif has insisted that Mr. Chaudhry along with some 60 other judges, who were also fired in November, when Mr. Musharraf declared emergency rule, should be restored to the bench.
To drive home the point about broken promises, Mr. Sharif, a former two-time prime minister, released an accord signed by the two men on Aug. 7.
The document shows that Mr. Zardari and Mr. Sharif agreed that all the judges would be restored by an executive order one day after Mr. Musharraf’s impeachment or resignation. But Mr. Zardari stalled.
In an interview with the BBC Urdu-language radio service on Saturday, Mr. Zardari defended his position, saying agreements with the Pakistan Muslim League-N were not “holy like the holy Koran.”
The Aug. 7 accord, signed as the two parties maneuvered to force Mr. Musharraf out, also said the two men would agree on a presidential candidate.
Instead, according to Mr. Sharif’s aides, Mr. Zardari went ahead to plan his own candidacy for the presidency, and arranged for the election to be held on Sept. 6 without consulting Mr. Sharif.
At the news conference in Islamabad, Mr. Sharif introduced his party’s candidate for president, Saeed-uz-zaman Siddiqui, a former chief justice. Mr. Siddiqui refused to take the oath of office to remain as chief justice after Mr. Musharraf took power from Mr. Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.
The presidential vote polls the national Parliament and four provincial assemblies. It is expected that Mr. Zardari will prevail.
There was no immediate official reaction from the Pakistan Peoples Party on the collapse of the coalition.
But a member of Parliament from the party, Fauzia Wahab, said the party would “conveniently and easily survive” without the support of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. She criticized Mr. Sharif for “holding the system hostage of one man,” meaning Mr. Chaudhry.
Mr. Zardari, the widower of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December, has consistently opposed the reappointment of Mr. Chaudhry since the coalition came together after Feb. 18 parliamentary elections.
The basis of Mr. Zardari’s objection appears grounded in a fear that the judge would undo the amnesty granted to Mr. Zardari on corruption charges when he returned to Pakistan on the death of his wife after years in exile.
Mr. Zardari served in government in the 1990s, when Ms. Bhutto was twice prime minister in the 1990s. He spent more than eight years in jail on various corruption charges that were dropped on his return and which he says were politically motivated.
In the week since Mr. Musharraf resigned, Mr. Zardari has emerged as the chief political force in Pakistan, and he appears to have the backing of the Bush administration as he drives forward toward the presidency.
In the past two days, Mr. Zardari’s statements have increasingly coincided with Washington’s policies, particularly on the campaign against terror, the United States’ central concern here.
In the BBC radio interview, Mr. Zardari used unusually strong words against the Taliban, whose presence in Pakistan’s tribal areas has gathered steam in the last year. “The world is losing the war,” he said of the fight against the Taliban. “I think at the moment they definitely have the upper hand.”
Mr. Zardari said in the interview the Tehrik-i-Taliban, an umbrella group of the Taliban in Pakistan, should be banned. On Monday, the Interior Ministry announced the group would be added to the list of banned organizations. Other Islamic extremist groups are on the Interior Ministry’s list, but the listing appears to have had little effect.
Several months ago, the government in the North-West Frontier Province, which is allied with Mr. Zardari’s party, signed a peace agreement with an Islamic extremist group, in the province’s Swat Valley. That accord is now broken and the Pakistani Army has been fighting the group for the last several weeks.
Salman Masood contributed reporting.

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