The second largest party in Pakistan's ruling political coalition is vowing to quit its federal cabinet posts, threatening the stability of the six-week-old coalition government. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from Islamabad on the political rift over the reinstatement of judges who were sacked last year by President Pervez Musharraf.
The leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told reporters that ministers from his party will resign from their cabinet posts on Tuesday, ending their participation in the government led by the Pakistan People's Party. Mr. Sharif says today was the deadline for an agreement on the judges and now that the deadline is ending, the ministers will meet with the prime minister on Tuesday to hand in their resignations.
The former prime minister said that although party members were leaving their cabinet posts, they would remain in parliament and would not join the political opposition.
Immediately following his press conference, a spokesman for the Pakistan People's Party said the vacated cabinet positions will remain empty and party leaders will attempt to resume negotiations over the judge's issue.
The two parties have been at an impasse over the judges since the beginning of their coalition. The main disagreement has been over which supreme court justices to empower. Mr. Sharif's party wants to restore the deposed justices and have them decide whether to retain those justices appointed by Mr. Musharraf. The Pakistan People's Party argues Mr. Musharraf's appointed judges should remain in power.
Mr. Sharif also addressed media reports that U.S. diplomats have been pressuring the two sides to end their deadlock on the judges issue.
"There is no American pressure on us. And frankly there has been no pressure," he said. "And we don't take any outside pressure, we take positions according to the aspiration of the people of Pakistan."
The Pakistan Muslim League-N party and the Pakistan People's Party swept to power in February elections that were largely seen as a rebuke to politicians allied with President Pervez Musharraf.
The PPP released a statement Monday saying the decision by PML-N ministers to leave the cabinet would not weaken its determination to restore the sacked judges and to strengthen the parliament.