Race on for successor

August 19, 2008


ISLAMABAD: Leaders of the parties in the ruling coalition went into a marathon meeting after President Pervez Musharraf announced his decision to resign on Monday. The meeting focussed on post-Musharraf challenges.

The biggest challenge that came under discussion was the fate of deposed judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

The two major parties in the coalition have divergent views on the matter with Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif insisting on immediate reinstatement of the judges and Pakistan People ‘s Party’s co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari asking for some time to think over the modalities.

Sources said all the leaders were in an upbeat mood but there was realisation that if not handled properly the judges’ issue could once again put the major coalition partners at odds with each other and trigger another crisis.

According to a press release issued by the PPP, the coalition partners will meet again on Tuesday.

They welcomed the resignation of President Musharraf and termed it “the fall of dictatorship and a triumph of democracy”.

The meeting that lasted for five hours was attended by Mr Zardari, Nawaz Sharif, Awami National Party’s president Asfandyar Wali Khan, Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam (F) chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Education Minister Ahsan Iqbal, Senator Ishaq Dar, Information Minister Sherry Rehman, Minister for Water and Power Raja Pervez Ashraf, Information Technology Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira, Foreign Affairs Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Maulana Ghafoor Hyderi of the JUI-F.

The coalition partners said the exit of Gen (retd) Musharraf would result in political stability. They were of the view that the surge in stock market and jubilation on the streets proved that the people regarded his dictatorship as a stumbling block.

The sources said there was a consensus on which party would get the post of president.

PPP chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari said the next president would be from his party.

Labour Minister Syed Khursheed Shah told journalists that the decision about the next president would be taken within 72 hours. “The name of the candidate for the president’s office will be announced after a consensus would be reached in the party on the issue,” he said.

When asked if Mr Zardari could be the candidate, he said: “The name will be finalised by the party.”

According to the sources, the PPP is considering the names of National Assembly Speaker Dr Fehmida Mirza, former federal minister Aftab Shaaban Mirani and Mr Zardari’s sister Faryal Talpur. The PML-N is likely to propose the names of Baloch nationalist leader Attaullah Mengal, former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui and Pukhtunkhwa Milli Awami Party chief Mehmood Achakzai.

The issue of changing the governors of Sindh and Punjab also came under discussion, the sources said.

They said the ANP leader asked the coalition partners to appoint a new governor of the NWFP from his party. The party put forward the name of Afrasyab Khattak for the post.

The JUI-F demanded the post of Balochistan’s governor.

Jubilant supporters of the PPP danced and distributed sweets outside the Zardari House.

Demonstrations were also held in different parts of the federal capital, Rawalpndi and other cities to celebrate the resignation of President Musharraf.PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal said his party had demanded that amendments should be made to the Constitution, including scrapping of Article 58(2)b, before the election of the president.

He said the criteria for nominating a candidate for the post would depend on whether or not the clause empowering the president to dissolve the National Assembly was revoked.

He said the controversial amendments made to the Constitution by Gen (retd) Musharraf, including the 17th Amendment, would be scrapped and the

1973 Constitution would be restored in its original shape.

He said Gen (retd) Musharraf was responsible for all the crises and the people had rejected his policies in the elections.

PML-N’s parliamentary leader in the National Assembly Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said the credit for Gen (retd) Musharraf’s resignation went to all the political parties, members of the civil society and the lawyers.

He said reinstatement of the judges was the top priority of the coalition government. “First we will reinstate the deposed judges and then decide about who is going to be the next head of the state,” he said.

Replying to a question, the PML-N leader said it was a demand of the people that Gen (retd) Musharraf must be brought to justice because he had violated the Constitution and sacked judges.The Leader of the House in the Senate, Raza Rabbani of the PPP, described the resignation as a triumph of democratic forces and said it had become possible because of the sacrifices of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto and dozens of political workers.

He said the government would reinstate the judges and concentrate on solving the problems being faced by people, including price hike and the energy crisis.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman said Gen (retd) Musharraf “had become a liability for the nation because of his anti-democratic credentials”.