|Snubs Aitzaz; says he is not interested in restoration of personalities
By Ansar Abbasi
ISLAMABAD: Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari has issued a long charge-sheet against the deposed superior court judges, saying they never came to his rescue and were responsible for his eight years in jail.
In the clearest indication that the PPP may not stand by the Murree Declaration to restore the judges, the PPP leader told his central executive committee in Naudero that he was not interested in the restoration of personalities but wanted a judicial reforms package.
Analysts said things were getting complicated for Zardari, both within the PPP and outside, as he was moving closer to allies of President Musharraf and drifting away from his coalition partner Nawaz Sharif.
As Zardari issued his charge-sheet against the judges, Makhdoom Amin Fahim demanded the disbandment of the Pakistan People’s Party Parliamentarians which he heads. Others in the PPP blasted the party leadership’s decision to join hands with the MQM.
On the other hand, the PML-N is determined not to compromise on the issue of restoration of the deposed judges through a resolution in the National Assembly. The party says it seeks strict adherence to the Murree Declaration and would not accept any formula or constitutional amendment that restores all the deposed judges minus chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
“After gaining so much because of the political initiative that Zardari has taken in the recent weeks, the PPP co-chairperson is on the verge of losing all,” a senior PPP leader told this correspondent from Naudero, revealing the situation in the interior Sindh was extremely tense after Zardari’s visit to the MQM headquarters popularly known as Nine Zero.
In a post-dinner gathering of the PPP’s central executive committee, the source said, many PPP leaders minced no words in criticising Zardari’s decision to woo the MQM. PPP MNA Shugufta Jamani and Sethi Ishaq were among those who expressed strong resentment and wondered how the PPP could join hands with the MQM, which was responsible for the killing of PPP workers.
“The Sindhi people have not given a mandate to Zardari to thrust upon them his personal agenda of humiliation in the name of reconciliation,” a PPP leader told The News, adding, “We strongly oppose and condemn the PPP-MQM coalition in Sindh.”
The leader asked: “Who caused the May 12th incident? Who was behind the Oct 18 blast? Who killed Murad Baloch and Munawar Suhrawardy? But you still went to the Nine Zero to express solidarity with the MQM against the wishes of the nation. Now it’s time for us to rethink our support for you, Mr Zardari,” said the source, who sounded quite disturbed.
“There is a wave of anger,” a PPP leader said. The likes of Raja Pervez Ashraf, Shah Mehmud Qureshi, Jahangir Badr, however, showered Zardari with praises and called him a great leader. Badr even crossed all limits by saying that the PPP had become more popular under Zardari.
Zardari, however, defended his party’s rapprochement with the MQM and termed it a sensible political move having far-reaching impact. He said he wanted to open all political avenues for his son, Bilawal, and never liked to see the doors of Nine Zero closed for him. He said the MQM would be forming a government with the PPP.
Aitzaz Ahsan, who sought the restoration of the deposed judges, told the meeting that it would be in the interest of the party to get the judges restored.
Zardari, according to sources, came hard on the issue of the judges’ restoration. According to one source, Zardari snubbed the widely-respected lawyer leader and said he knew the worth of the judges whose restoration was being sought by the lawyers’ community.
Zardari said these were the same judges who had earlier taken oath under the PCO and validated the military rule. Referring to his jail life, a source quoted him as saying that he was let down by these judges, who had even refused to release him on parole to attend the funeral of his nephew. He said he was allowed only a two-hour parole despite Farooq H Naek’s pleading before the same judges.
He said the then Justice Wajihuddin Ahmed had also refused him a parole. He termed the same judiciary biased, which he said was responsible for his eight years in jail. Party sources reported that Asif Ali Zardari was quite emotional while speaking on the judges’ issue. One source said he talked of the restoration of the judges but linked it to a constitutional package. He said the party was interested in the independence of the judiciary and not in personalities.
A party leader said he was disappointed to hear what he termed the charge-sheet issued by the PPP co-chairperson against the deposed judges. According to him, almost 60 per cent of the co-chairman’s speech was on Aitzaz Ahsan and the judges.
While the PPP is clearly seen connecting the judges restoration issue with a constitutional package, the PML-N is determined not to budge from what had been agreed between the two parties in Murree on March 9, 2008.
“We don’t accept the ‘Minus-One Formula’ or any such solution that excludes Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry,” PML-N minister Ahsan Iqbal told this correspondent, adding the “Minus-One Formula” would mean accepting March 9, 2007 Gen Musharraf’s action of suspending chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as legitimate.
Ahsan said as per the Murree Declaration, the deposed judges would be restored through a resolution. Ahsan categorically said that the question of any constitutional amendment for the judges’ restoration did not arise.
Ahsan said the coalition was committed to the Murree Declaration and clarified that the PML-N was not averse to a mutually-agreed constitutional package having no link with the restoration of the judges.