Pakistan: Now or Never?
Perspectives on Pakistan
When former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of the late Benazir Bhutto, agreed in March to form a coalition government in Pakistan, the words of the 19th century British prime minister Benjamin Disraeli seemed apt:
“Coalitions, though successful, have always found this, that their triumph has been brief,” I quoted him as saying, in a posting which asked whether the coalition between Sharif’s PML (N) and Zardari’s PPP would survive.
It turns out the triumph has been even briefer than many expected. Sharif pulled his party out of the government on Monday, though he said his PML (N) party would continue to support the PPP-led government in parliament, rather than sit in outright opposition. At issue were differences over the restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf when he declared a state of emergency in November, and over the future of the former army general who ousted Sharif in a 1999 coup.
(The judiciary issue is fiendishly complex, but to simplify, Sharif wanted a complete restoration of the judges, who then in turn might have posed legal challenges to Musharraf. Zardari wanted the judges restored, but with their wings clipped. Zardari is also seen as less hostile to Musharraf than Sharif.)