ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif pulled his party from the Cabinet on Monday, raising doubts over the new government's stability and Pakistan's transition to democracy after eight years of military rule.
The ruling coalition that came to power after February elections — dealing a crushing defeat to allies of President Pervez Musharraf — could now founder. Its two key partners cannot agree over how to restore senior judges removed by the former military strongman late last year.
Sharif said his group would still support the government led by the party of Asif Ali Zardari on an "issue by issue" basis, but also indicated he would join protests by lawyers lobbying for the restoration of the judges — which risks intensifying the standoff between the parties.
A permanent split in the coalition would boost Musharraf, a longtime ally in the U.S.-led war on terror, who has taken a back seat since the new civilian government took power in late March.
The failure of the new civilian administration could reinforce perceptions that only the army is capable of running the volatile Islamic country.
Zardari and Sharif announced an agreement on reinstating the dozens of judges that were axed by Musharraf to forestall a Supreme Court ruling on his eligibility for office, but they have since disagreed on the mechanics.
Sharif said ministers from his party would hand in their resignations today.