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Another Pakistan crisis after coalition colla -

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Another Pakistan crisis after coalition collapses

The World Today - Tuesday, 26 August , 2008 12:45:00

Reporter: Barney Porter

ELEANOR HALL: Heading overseas now and Pakistan today is dealing with yet another political crisis
with the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, pulling his party out of the ruling coalition
overnight. The move has come just a week after the coalition parties celebrated the resignation of
President Pervez Musharraf, who was facing impeachment.

And while analysts say the country won't have to head to the polls immediately, they agree the
political intrigues are diverting the Government's attention from escalating security and economic
problems.

Barney Porter has our story.

BARNEY PORTER: The coalition is led by Pakistan's biggest party the PPP, previously headed by the
assassinated former Prime Minister, Benazir Bhutto. Mr Sharif joined with the PPP to oppose Pervez
Musharraf, but now he says it's repeatedly broken promises on resolving a long-running judicial
dispute and on who should be the country's next president.

And he's laid the blame squarely with the PPP leader, Mrs Bhutto's husband, Asif Ali Zardari.

NAWAZ SHARIF: We joined the coalition with full sincerity and commitment to steer Pakistan towards
full restoration of democracy, independence of judiciary and constitutional governance.
Unfortunately all promises made with us were not honoured.

BARNEY PORTER: The last straw was the passing of a deadline to reinstate 60 judges General
Musharraf had purged last year. Critics have said the PPP may not want to restore the judges,
because they could overturn an amnesty on corruption charges that allowed Mr Zardari to return to
Pakistan last year.

On the streets, Pakistanis have been less than supportive of the latest political developments.

PAKISTANI 1 (translated): Today they say they are in coalition, tomorrow they say they are pulling
out of coalition. What kind of coalition is this? Had they formed this coalition just to get rid of
Musharraf?

PAKISTANI 2 (translated): The issue is not where does Zardari sit or where Nawaz Sharif. The issue
is just one, that where will the people eat from? Where will they earn their living from? And where
will they live?

BARNEY PORTER: Professor Marvin Weinbaum is a former Pakistan analyst for the US State Department
and is now a scholar at the Middle East Institute in Washington. He says the collapse of the
coalition wasn't necessarily inevitable.

MARVIN WEINBAUM: But it wouldn't have happened if Mr Zadari hadn't concluded that he could put
together a government without Nawaz Sharif and that's what we've seen now. So he baulked at going,
at keeping his promise I should say. He baulked at that because he felt that he was able to cobble
together a group of minority parties that would enable him to govern and to be elected as
president.

BARNEY PORTER: And that's the other divisive issue that led to Mr Sharif's decision to leave the
Coalition. The PPP announced last weekend Mr Zardari would be its presidential candidate.

But Mr Sharif says that violated an earlier agreement for a non-partisan candidate if the
presidency retains certain powers, including those to dismiss parliament. Mr Zardari has a
different view.

ASIF ALI ZARDARI (translated): For the sake of democracy, for the sake of Pakistan, I bear witness
to the people of Pakistan and say, that my friends, my brother and my sisters, I have to lead this
country through very difficult times, and Nawaz Sharif you have to be with us too.

BARNEY PORTER: Members of the four provincial assemblies and the two houses of the national
parliament will elect a new president early next month. But as the politicians bicker, militant
violence has surged in Pakistan considered one of the front lines in the campaign against
terrorism.

BARNEY PORTER: Professor Marvin Weinbaum says if Mr Zardari is elected president, it will be
difficult for him to rule.

MARVIN WEINBAUM: The new coalition is going to be a group of parties that are really only together
because they all want to have a share of power. That's all that really ties them together and until
that happens and even while it's happening, the problems of the country specifically with respect
to it's economy and the challenges that are being presented from the frontier by the Pakistani
Taliban, there's very little likelihood that they're going to develop coherent policies to deal
with those challenges.

ELEANOR HALL: That's Professor Marvin Weinbaum from the Middle East Institute in Washington, ending
Barney Porter's report.