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Thursday, March 5, 2009

Opportunists ruling the country: Sharif

Azhar Masood, Arab News

ISLAMABAD: Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said yesterday that the country was being ruled by “opportunist judges and generals.”

Addressing a national conference on the restoration of the judiciary, Sharif said justice could not be ensured in the absence of a free judiciary. He said the governor’s rule in Punjab province could have been averted.

The former prime minister said Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar had offered to give a favorable verdict, “if the PML-N leadership accepted extension in his tenure as chief justice of Pakistan.”

The Pakistan Muslim League-N chief said his party would again rule Punjab since it enjoyed massive mass support. The Supreme Court last month upheld last year’s Lahore High Court verdict that disqualified Sharif because of his conviction concerning his attempts to block the landing of a plane carrying Gen. Pervez Musharraf, who was then the army chief.

Sharif’s younger brother Shahbaz Sharif was disqualified on grounds of tax evasion and defaulting on a bank loan. The decision led to the collapse of his Punjab provincial government.

Meanwhile, Rana Iqbal, speaker of the Punjab Provincial Assembly, called a session of the house defying the restrictions put by the imposition of the governor’s rule. A total of 213 members reposed confidence in Shahbaz.

Speaking at a press conference later, Shahbaz said, “Our majority is intact and so the governor was hesitant to call the assembly session.”

Shahbaz said during his tenure as chief minister he had received intelligence reports about a possible attack on the Sri Lankan cricket team. He said the attack had been carried out because the governor’s rule was imposed and high-level changes were made in police and other security agencies. The major reshuffle torpedoed the security plan for the cricket team, Shahbaz said.

In another development, chief of Jamaat-e-Islami Qazi Hussain Ahmad and Sharif yesterday announced a long march plan for the reinstatement of deposed Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

Basically it will be a “long march” by lawyers but the two parties announced their support to the program. Tehrik-e-Insaf led by Imran Khan has already decided to participate in the protest.

According to the program, the march will begin simultaneously from Quetta and Karachi on March 12 reaching the Sindh city of Sukkur in the evening. Groups of lawyers will go to Lahore from Multan on March 14. The protesters will likely reach Islamabad on March 16 and stage a sit-in on Constitution Avenue for an indefinite period.

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