Sharif’s party quits Pak cabinet

Islamabad, May 13:

Ministers from the party of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif submitted their resignations from Pakistan’s Cabinet today, shaking the fragile coalition government that took power just six weeks ago.

Sharif announced yesterday that he was pulling his ministers from the government over its failure to meet a promise to reinstate judges ousted by archrival President Musharraf.

But PM Yousuf Raza Gilani did not immediately accept the nine resignations today. Gilani said he first wanted to consult his party’s leader, Asif Ali Zardari, according to one of the nine, Education Minister Ahsan Iqbal. A withdrawal of Sharif’s party raises the prospect of the fledgling government collapsing.

Sharif said his party would remain part of the ruling coalition, which is led by the party of Zardari. Zardari’s party expressed “respect” for the decision and said the parties remained close. But a spokesman for Sharif sharpened the tone today, accusing members of Zardari’s PPP of “serving the interests” of Musharraf by blocking the judges’ restoration.

Zardari acquitted:

KARACHI: A lawyer says a Pakistani court has cleared the widower of slain ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto of charges of smuggling artifacts. Asif Ali Zardari was accused of trying to smuggle antique guns and swords out of Pakistan in a case filed in 1997, soon after Bhutto’s ouster as PM. Zardari’s lawyer, Abu Bakar Zardari, says a provincial court cleared Zardari on Tuesday of the long-pending charges. The lawyer says there is now only one case pending against Zardari. — AP