Leaders of Pakistan's ruling coalition government have ended their first meeting since President Pervez Musharraf's resignation by postponing any decisions about restoring judges deposed by the former president. From Islamabad, VOA's Barry Newhouse reports minority partners in the coalition revealed that they had just learned of a secret agreement between the two major parties, and needed time to study its implications.
Fresh from a victorious plan to unseat Pakistan's longtime ruler, political leaders of the coalition government appeared in good spirits when they gathered at the headquarters of the Pakistan People's Party in Islamabad Tuesday afternoon.
Hours later, the politicians said they needed more time before deciding what to do next, because they had just learned of a secret agreement between the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N party. Asfandyar Wali is leader of the Awami National Party, one of several minority factions in the coalition.
He says his party, as well as the JUI and parliamentarians from the Federally Administered Tribal Agencies were not taken into confidence by the two major parties before. He says they need to discuss the newly revealed document with their supporters.
Officials did not disclose the contents of the agreement, but it is widely believed to involve when and how the government would restore top judges deposed by President Musharraf last year.
PPP spokeswoman Sherry Rehman downplayed any disagreement among members of the fragile coalition.
"They have played a very critical role in this impeachment process and building pressure," Rehman said. "So we have conceded to their interests as well as ours and they said they need at least 72 hours at least to look at it and review their own arrangements."
While the PML-N has been adamant about restoring the judges, the PPP has been more reluctant, possibly because the justices could take up challenges to a legal amnesty granted to PPP leaders on corruption charges.
Jamiat Ulema e Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Reham said he was confident the partners could work through the differences.
He says we will be in contact with the leaders and we hope after the departure of General Musharraf we will hopefully reach a consensus.
The government has been expected to address the restoration of the judiciary first, before moving on to what is expected to be a hotly contested struggle to elect a new president. Under Pakistan's constitution, the government has 30 days to elect a replacement.