President Musharraf last fall fired several important judges who opposed his unilateral actions and since that moment the issue of restoring the sacked judges has plagued the Pakistan government. Upon assuming control of the government, the Pakistan Peoples Party(PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari, decided the best course of action was to proceed slowly and work toward restoration of the judges while dealing with immediate issues confronting his nation. However, his coalition ally, the Pakistan Muslim League-N, led by Nawaz Sharif, insisted the judges should be restored and that Musharraf should be impeached and removed from office. Many Pakistani officials fear a confrontation between the legislature and the presidency is not appropriate at this moment such an impeachment trial would literally put the government at a standstill.
The decision of the PPP to accept demands of the PML-N is unfortunate. President Musharraf undoubtedly deserves to be removed from office, but step one should be restoring the sacked judges and waiting a few months until the volatile situation in the tribal areas has calmed down before preceding with an impeachment process.
The legacy of President Musharraf’s actions last fall when he fired most members of the Pakistan Supreme Court continue to divide Pakistan political leaders. Nawaz Sharif, head of the PML-N party insists he told Zardari, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party that he would not join the coalition government unless there was agreement all judges sacked by Musharraf would be restored by May 12. Failure on the part of Zardari to take this step led to Nawaz resigning from the coalition government.
Esentially, Zardari argues the original sacking was illegal and an attempt to now fire judges appointed by Musharraf would also be illegal. He wants the present group of judges to remain even as the sacked judges are restored to their positions. He fears creating a constitutional crisis since the government is working to end conflict in the northwest region with Islamic militants.
There is no question this is a critical moment in Pakistan history and there is need for a coalition government which can resolve conflicts in the northwest and end militant attacks. Perhaps, at the back of his mind is a hope that President Musharraf in the coming months will resign and allow resolution of the judge issues.
President Musharraf last fall removed several judges from the Pakistan Supreme Court because they opposed his attempts to gain complete power. The judges were replaced by another set of judges who were sympathetic to the demands of the president. The Pakistan Muslim League-N- headed by Nawaz Sharif has taken up the fight to restore to power the judges who were sacked and being unable to get their ideas accepted by the current government led by the Pakistan People’s Party, they have resigned their posts. Nawaz said he had joined the coalition government on condition the judges would be restored. PPP co-chair, Asif Zardari, wants to move slowly on this issue. He fears trying to restore the judges would result in the current Pakistan Supreme Court declaring such an action to be illegal and creating a constitutional crisis.
This entire mess was created by President Musharraf’s original illegal action. Nawaz may well be playing to the court of public opinion by casting himself as a noble person who is fighting against the forces of evil. In a sense, he has transformed the PPP from a party opposing Musharraf into one that is supporting him. it is a rather clever ploy, but it runs the risk of creating turmoil at a time when Pakistan needs calm heads in order to deal with a host of problems including dealing with militants in northeast regions of the country.