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Pakistan promises 'good news' on ousted judges

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  • PPP-led coalition government promises restoration of ousted judges
  • Musharraf ordered 60 judges November last year arrested
  • Government missed deadline to reinstate judges within 30 days of taking office
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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan's new government plans to announce Friday how and when it will restore dozens of judges who were ousted last year by President Pervez Musharraf.

"The nation will hear very good news tomorrow on the issue of the restoration of judges," Pakistan People's Party (PPP) spokesman Wasif Syed said Thursday.

In the wake of an emergency order that Musharraf issued last November, at least 60 judges were arrested -- some jailed, others placed under house arrest.

The arrests included nearly all of the justices on Pakistan's Supreme Court, which was set to rule against the legitimacy of Musharraf's third term in office. He had been re-elected president just a month earlier by a parliament that critics contend was stacked with his supporters.

Shortly after taking office last month, the PPP-led coalition government ordered the release of all the judges.

PPP -- the party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto -- won the majority of seats in parliament in February, ousting Musharraf's ruling party from power.

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Bhutto's widower and PPP leader Asif Zardari and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who heads the coalition's other main party, wrapped up talks in Dubai on Thursday after reaching an agreement on how to restore the judges.

Sharif, who is returning to Pakistan, will announce the details of the agreement on Friday afternoon from Lahore, according to the PPP spokesman.

The coalition government had vowed to reinstate the judges within 30 days of taking office -- a deadline that expired Wednesday night.

The restoration of the judges has been a big issue in Pakistan and the subject of many protests by Pakistan's lawyers' movement during the past six months.

For more than a week, PPP and Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N party have held meetings and discussions on this issue.

The main stumbling block has been how the coalition partners will restore the judges. Sharif's party believes a simple resolution followed by an executive order is enough. But Zardari's party wants a constitutional package to go along with the resolution to prevent judges from being fired again in the future.

Such a package, according to the PPP, would also address the fate of the current judges. But analysts say Zardari is concerned that if he restores the deposed judges, they could pick up corruption charges against him that were recently dropped by the current Supreme Court.

Sharif flew to Dubai to meet with Zardari for more talks on the issue. Zardari has said that the initial 30-day deadline was simply a "political statement," but Sharif has taken the deadline more seriously.

The failure of the coalition government to fulfill its promise of restoring the judges within 30 days has the local media and many analysts questioning whether the coalition is fracturing.

But both sides insist the PPP-PML-N coalition is not in jeopardy. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

CNN Reza Sayah contributed to this report

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