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Page last updated at 16:46 GMT, Monday, 28 April 2008 17:46 UK

Pakistan parties meet over judges

Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry
Mr Chaudhry became a focal point for anti-Musharraf forces

Senior members of Pakistan's governing coalition have been trying to reach agreement on the reinstatement of judges sacked by President Musharraf.

He dismissed a number of leading judges last November.

Divisions have emerged within the two main governing parties, the PPP and the PML-N, over how much power the restored judges should have.

There have also been questions about whether former top judge, Iftikhar Chaudhry, should get his job back.

Important details

The talks have been taking place in Dubai in a residence of Pakistan People's Party leader Asif Ali Zardari. He lived there for many years with his wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was assassinated in December.

President Musharraf
Mr Musharraf first moved against Mr Chaudhry in March, 2007

The Pakistan Muslim League (N) has sent Shahbaz Sharif, brother of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to the talks.

President Musharraf sacked the judges when it became clear that they were preparing to rule on whether his re-election earlier in the year was legal.

They were also due to rule on whether an amnesty he granted Ms Bhutto in a number of corruption cases was legal.

The PML-N has been calling for an unequivocal restoration of the judges. Members of the PPP have been more cautious.

Both parties have pledged to restore the judges by the end of the month. However discussions have stalled over important details.

Correspondents say that there have been discussions about whether all of the judges should be restored with the exception of Mr Chaudhry.

There is also discussion about whether the judges should only be allowed to rule on cases brought to them.

In recent years, Mr Chaudhry gained a reputation for judicial activism, leading investigations into cases of his own accord.

The two sides have also been discussing whether to limit the terms that judges serve.

President Musharraf suspended Mr Chaudhry in March, 2007. That triggered a wave of protests by lawyers which developed into wider protests against the president's rule.

The Supreme Court later reinstated Mr Chaudhry. But he and other judges were later sacked when President Musharraf imposed emergency rule in November. Although he lifted the emergency six weeks later, he refused to give them their jobs back.


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