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Sharif Withdraws from Pakistan Governing Coalition

BY Admin  August 25, 2008 at 11:30 AM EDT

Nawaz Sharif; AP photo

The move will concentrate power in the hands of the coalition’s largest party, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

The coalition formed in February, after former president Pervez Musharraf’s party lost a parliamentary election. Sharif said that he is leaving the coalition because leaders of the PPP have failed to reinstate judges fired by Musharraf, who resigned last week facing impeachment charges.

Sharif had repeatedly said he would leave the coalition if the judges were not reinstated. Last week he set Monday as the deadline.

Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower and a leader of the PPP, had said that the judges would be reinstated but had never set a timeline to do so. PPP officials worry that the judges, if reinstated, would invalidate an amnesty passed by the Musharraf-appointed replacement judges that allowed Bhutto and Zardari, who had been facing corruption charges, to return to Pakistan last year.

“These repeated defaults and violation shave forced us to withdraw our support from the ruling coalition and sit on the opposition benches,” Sharif said in a news conference Monday, Reuters reported.

The PPP and Sharif’s party, the Pakistan Muslim Leage-Nawaz (PLM-N), also disagree about who should become Pakistan’s next president — the PPP has nominated Zardari; Sharif said Monday that his party will nominate former chief justice Saeeduzzaman Siddiqui.

Sharif’s withdrawal is not likely to collapse the government, and the PPP should be able to count on enough support from smaller parties to remain in power, Reuters reported. And Sharif said Monday that his party wanted to play a constructive role in the opposition — a sign that he will not try to bring the government down, according to the BBC.

However, the move adds another element of uncertainty to the country’s political landscape as the government tries to deal with recent security threats and economic troubles.

Violence by the Pakistani Taliban has surged recently: gunmen attacked a government official’s home northwest of Islamabad Monday and gunmen set fire to two armored vehicles headed toward U.S. forces in Afghanistan Sunday, according to Reuters.

Pakistan’s stock market, responding to the violence and political instability, has fallen 30 percent this year after six consecutive years of growth.