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Pakistan parties trying to bridge the gap between PPP and PML-N

By Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
March 02, 2009 17:36 IST
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Smaller parties in Pakistan have launched a bid to patch up differences between President Asif Ali Zardari and the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz chief Nawaz Sharif before matters reach a point of no return.

Though Sharif appears to be in no mood of patch up, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman and Awami National Party leader Asfandyar Wali Khan have initiated efforts to get the two main parties to resolve their differences.

"We have convinced Zardari to sit down with Nawaz Sharif and resolve the issue through dialogue," Rehman told media persons after he and Wali Khan met the President on Sunday.

"Zardari has given us the go-ahead to talk to Sharif, which is a good sign," said Rehman, who met Zardari after discussions with the PML-N president and former Punjab chief minister Shahbaz Sharif on phone.

Rehman said he and other leaders were trying to work out a settlement with the PML-N though no timeframe could be set for this. He advised both Zardari and Sharif to soften their stances as.

Relations between the PML-N and Zardari's ruling Pakistan People's Party hit an all-time low last week after the Supreme Court barred Nawaz and Shahbaz Sharif from contesting polls and holding elected office.

Zardari imposed Governor's Rule in Punjab following the verdict. Sharif, who has blamed Zardari for influencing the court's judgement, on Sunday accused the President of continuing the policies of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.

Sharif urged the people to rise up against the government and predicted there would be a change in the country within weeks.

Though leaders of the PPP-led federal coalition, including Rehman and Khan, have established contacts with Sharif, the two-time former premier appears to be in no mood for a patch-up with Zardari.

The PML-N has singled out Zardari in its criticism while refraining from targeting the PPP.

Reports have suggested that Zardari may reverse his decision to impose governor's rule in Punjab for two months provided the PML-N agrees to distance itself from a campaign by the lawyers' movement to press for the reinstatement of judges deposed by Musharraf during the 2007 emergency.

The PPP apparently fears that if former Supreme Court chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is reinstated, he could scrap a law passed by Musharraf to drop graft cases against Zardari and other PPP leaders.

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Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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