by RAY FLEMING
ABOUT a month ago - or was it two months - I commented here that it takes a long time to form a government in Pakistan since the wheeling and dealing inseparable from forming a coalition cannot be avoided. The parliamentary elections took place on February 18 with the return of the centrist Pakistan People's Party (Benazir Bhutto's party before her death) and the conservative Pakistan Muslim League in the lead. It was widely thought that Asif Zardawi, Bhutto's widower, and Nawaz Sharif of the League would, given time, reach an agreement on sharing power -- and after two months it was announced that they had done so. Unfortunately, however, the coalition is already at risk and, strangely, the issue on which it may founder is one of the few where there seemed to be common ground -- the reinstatement of the Supreme Court judges dismissed by President Musharraf last autumn. Zardarwi and Sharif said that the reinstatement would take place by 30 April, but this date has come and gone without the promised action. The problem seems to be that Chief Justice Chaudry, who was among those dismissed, is bitterly opposed to the continuation in office of President Musharraf, which he believes to be illegal. If he resumes his post he will pursue this point and risk a constitutional crisis. Sharif thinks events should take their course but Zardawi thinks such a confrontation should be avoided. An effective government in Pakistan is of the greatest importance, internally and externally, but it is not easy to achieve.
by RAY FLEMING