ISLAMABAD, Aug 25: The Pakistan Muslim League-N on Monday finally quit the five-month-old ruling coalition because of differences with the Pakistan People’s Party on the issues of reinstatement of the deposed judges and unilateral nomination of PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari as a presidential candidate.
The alliance has fallen apart only a week after the resignation of former president Pervez Musharraf.
“We have decided to quit the coalition and sit on the opposition benches in parliament,” PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif told a news conference after presiding over a joint meeting of the party’s Central Working Committee (CWC) and parliamentary group.
The PML-N also announced that it would field former chief justice Saeeduz Zaman Siddiqui as its candidate for the Sept 6 presidential election. Mr Siddiqui was present at the news conference.
The PML-N chief accused Mr Zardari of repeatedly reneging on promises to reinstate the judges.
He said the PPP had nominated Mr Zardari as its presidential candidate in violation an agreement signed by the two leaders on Aug 7 when they announced the plan to impeach Mr Musharraf.
He read out excerpts from the agreement carrying signatures of Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari, saying the two parties had agreed to evolve a consensus among the coalition partners on the new president. Copies of the agreement were distributed among reporters.
In the last clause of the agreement, the two parties had agreed that “in case the office of the president still retains the powers acquired under the 17th Amendment, a nationally respected, non-partisan and pro-democracy figure acceptable to the coalition partners will be put forward as the presidential candidate.
“In case the 17th Amendment is repealed and the powers of the president are restricted to the original powers as envisaged in 1973 Constitution, the PPP will have the right to put forward its own candidate.”
Mr Sharif alleged that the PPP had violated a clause of the agreement stating that the deposed judges would be reinstated within 24 hours after the impeachment or resignation of Gen (retd) Musharraf.
Mr Sharif said he did not want to withdraw his party’s support to the coalition and he had agreed to extend the deadline several times for reinstating the judges, but his party had been “forced to take this bitter decision”.
“We have taken this decision after we did not see any ray of hope and none of the commitments made to us was fulfilled,” he said, adding that there was tremendous pressure on his party to take a decisive position.
However, he said his party would play a “constructive and positive role” while sitting in the opposition and would not “try to destabilise the PPP government”. Referring to the rivalry between the two parties in the past, Mr Sharif said the PML-N would not do the politics of the 80s and the 90s. He said his party would support PPP’s efforts to implement the Charter of Democracy.
Mr Sharif disclosed that he and Mr Zardari had also signed a hand-written seven-page agreement on Aug 7 providing a complete roadmap for the period after the ouster of Gen (retd) Musharraf.
He praised Mr Siddiqui for refusing to take oath as the chief justice under a Provisional Constitution Order when Gen (retd) Musharraf wielded all the powers.The PML-N chief did not reply to a question about seeking support from the PML-Q but expressed the hope that a large number of parliamentarians would vote for Mr Siddiqui.
Mr Siddiqui said he would like to become a figurehead president as envisaged in a true federal parliamentary system.
Federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman admitted that the PPP had signed agreements with the PML-N but claimed that “our other internal and external allies wanted us to take our own route after the resignation of President Musharraf”.