Thursday, February 21, 2008

PPP, PML-N to form coalition government

Nawaz says no disagreement on judges' restoration

ISLAMABAD: Following his meeting with PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari, Pakistan Muslim League (N) Chief Nawaz Sharif said the PPP and PML-N will follow the agenda laid out in the Charter of Democracy.

He was addressing a joint press conference with PPP Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari after their one-hour meeting at Zardari House, where both the leaders announced the formation of a joint government in the centre and the provinces.

Both the leaders unanimously decided to restore the 1973 constitution.

Responding to a question, Nawaz Sharif said that they would not take any help from Musharraf. “I would have done so before the elections, if I had such an intention,” he added.

Both the leaders announced that the UN would be asked to investigate into the murder of Benazir Bhutto. Nawaz Sharif maintained that there is no difference in the two parties on the restoration of the deposed judges.

“We accept the mandate of PPP with an open heart and wish that PPP complete its five year term,” he said, adding, “struggle for restoration of judiciary will continue and the Charter of Democracy will also be followed.”

PPP Co-Chairman Asif Zardari said PPP and PML-N have decided to work together for democracy. However, he said, some of the matter are yet to be decided by the parties. Zardari said that both the leaders have decided to stay united in the parliament. Nawaz Sharif added, ‘We fought against the dictatorship and will keep doing so.’

Tear gas fired at protesting Pakistani lawyers

KARACHI, Feb 21 (AFP) - Police fired tear gas in Karachi Thursday as lawyers in Pakistan opposed to President Pervez Musharraf took to the streets in the first protests since Monday's elections. Police baton-charged and fired tear gas shells at lawyers protesting in Karachi to have judges reinstated after Musharraf sacked them last year.

Six people, including lawyers, were arrested outside the district court, police said. “We have arrested a few people and police had to use tear gas to disperse lawyers who were trying to hold a rally,” senior police official Tahir Naved told AFP. In the eastern city of Lahore, about 2,000 lawyers chanted, “Go Musharraf, go” and, “Restore independence of judiciary” during a rally.

They staged a protest sit-in outside the provincial parliament before dispersing peacefully. Similar rallies and meetings were held by lawyers in other cities across Pakistan to protest against President Musharraf’s declaration of emergency on November 3, and sacking of 63 judges including the then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, who was also detained at his home. Lawyers across Pakistan have held regular Thursday demonstrations since the judges' dismissal and have threatened a large-scale march on Islamabad next month if they are not reinstated.

PPP, PML-N and ANP hold talks in Islamabad

ISLAMABAD: Leaders from three major winners in the recent elections, the PPP, the PML-N and the ANP were in contact for the formation of government today in Islamabad. The parties were holding consultations ahead of a summit meeting in Islamabad today (Thursday), sources said.

PPP Co-chairman Asif Zardari, PML-N Quaid Mian Muhammad Nawaz Sharif and Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali will hold consultations here in a meeting to reach a consensus over some crucial issues such as restoration of the deposed judges, strengthening of national institutions, future of the president and other major issues.

Mian Nawaz Sharif and Asfandyar Wali reached Islamabad today for the meeting. The central executive committee of Pakistan Peoples Party held a meeting on Wednesday to discuss the post-election scenario, while the PML-N central working committee meeting today in Islamabad.

No constitutional hurdle to reinstatement of deposed judges: Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry

In a telephone address on Thursday to the Sindh High Court Bar Association, deposed chief justice of Pakistan Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry said there were no constitutional hurdles to returning the judges to their posts.

“I was deposed by an executive order and I can be restored by an executive order. There is no need of two-thirds majority of the parliament,” Justice Chaudhry said. “People have given their verdict, which shows that they have rejected the policies of the government,” Justice Chaudhry said from his home in Islamabad, where he was still under detention.

In a similar address to lawyers in Lahore, he said it was now the responsibility of political parties trying to form a ruling coalition to “work for the rule of law, independence of the judiciary and reinstatement of judges.” He said he remains chief justice and all the others dismissed in November “remain the judges legally. There is no hurdle in the reinstatement of judges, it needs only a simple official notification,” he said.

Aitzaz warns of long march if Judiciary not freed until March 9

(Courtesy GEO)
LAHORE: President, Supreme Court Bar Association Aitezaz Ahsan came out of his residence on Wednesday evening, where people in hundreds welcomed him and raised him on their shoulders.
People representing civil society and lawyers in large numbers were carrying placards of the deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, whose release orders have not been issued as yet.

Addressing the people present there, Aitezaz Ahsan said, ‘I am thankful to the representatives of civil society, doctors, lawyers, businessmen, women and men who came up for my release and have been staying back to support me.’ He said the people themselves took him out without any official orders.

He said a Punjab government official came with a piece of paper and asked him to an apology that elections are over and that ‘He will not undertake any political activity.’

Ahsan said that he rejected the offer by government, adding, ‘The day of everybody’s freedom is coming up.’ Aitezaz Ahsan warned to launch a long march towards Islamabad, if the judges are not restored until March 9.

Commenting on the elections results, he said he is pleased at them and congratulates the successful candidates, adding Pervez Musharraf kept canvassing for Q-League; however, the number of seats of his party was restricted to 38, thus, the anti-Musharraf votes were 86 percent in the recent elections.

Aitezaz thanked the media, which came instrumental in propagating ‘our message’ and give currency to it. A society cannot be free with a judiciary in chains, he added.

EU monitors point out poll irregularities

(Courtesy DAWN)

ISLAMABAD, Feb 20: The European Union has criticised the government for its failure to provide a level playing field in the electoral process. It has also pointed out ‘procedural irregularities and institutional inadequacies’.

“The elections were competitive,… but there were significant problems with the election framework and environment,” according to the preliminary assessment of the European Union Election Observation Mission released at a press conference here on Wednesday. The final report will be released in April.

The EU mission had the largest contingent of foreign poll observers who covered 65 per cent of the constituencies. It will also monitor post-election developments, including complaints and appeals.“A level playing field was not provided to the competitors with the authorities favouring the Pakistan Muslim League (Q),” said chief observer Michael Gahler, adding that the ruling parties “profited from the support”.

Mr Gahler said the involvement of the authorities included a multi-fold clout of institutions, including the local government nazims.He said the observation was independent of the results.“Nazims were directly involved in campaigning activity and misuse of state resources in their areas, mostly on behalf of PML-Q candidates. There were credible reports of police harassment of opposition party workers and agents. Some candidates across the board placed undue pressure on public authorities within their constituency to make public resources available to them,” the report said.

“The public broadcasters, the main source of information for most of the population, failed to live up to their responsibility to maintain balance. They provided substantial coverage of the president, government and the PML-Q and limited coverage of other parties,” it said.

Private television channels provided candidates and parties with pluralistic coverage, it said.

The report said people did not have confidence in the independence of the Election Commission.

“Statements of the count were not always issued to agents and were generally not displayed. Observers and candidates’ agents were not granted sufficient access to results compilation at the constituency level. Very few returning officers displayed constituency results with a breakdown by polling station -- a basic transparency requirement.”

Nevertheless, it said, on the whole counting was well conducted in the stations observed.Robert Evans, head of the EU Parliament delegation, said: “The election period has shown the strong desire of the Pakistani people for democracy and the rule of law.”

He said the holding of elections in a peaceful manner was the first sign of peaceful transition of power.