Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday sought reconciliation with the ruling coalition that dealt another blow to the embattled leader as a third provincial assembly demanded his impeachment.
"We should adopt a reconciliatory rather than confrontational approach to bring about stability in the country," he said in a televised speech during celebrations to mark Pakistan's 61st Independence Day.
"Pakistan needs stability to deal with the serious issues of terrorism and a deteriorating economy. The country is passing through the most difficult period of its history," he added in his first direct remarks since the coalition announced efforts to impeach him in the parliament last week.
Musharraf called upon his foes to suppress the "differences" so the country could be saved.
But the ruling coalition led by slain ex-premier Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party took another step towards the planned trial of the president.
The 168-member assembly of the southern province of Sindh on Wednesday unanimously passed a resolution that demanded a vote of confidence on Musharraf in the presidential Electoral College or his resignation. If neither happens, the president should be impeached by Parliament, it said.
The legislators chanted "Go, Musharraf, go!" during the session.
The vote brings to three the number of province banding together against the retired army general. Only the south-western province of Balochistan remains to vote on impeachment, which was expected by Friday.
The provincial votes are merely a way to prepare the ground for an eventual impeachment vote in the national Parliament, expected to be held later in the month.
One of Musharraf's devout allies, the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), staged a walkout as the debate on the resolution started in Sindh assembly, leaving no one in the house to defend the beleaguered leader.
The assembly has around 69 pro-Musharraf members from the MQM and three other smaller parties.
"We think it is an unconstitutional move, and we chose to abstain from the proceedings," Jam Maddad Ali, leader of the opposition, told reporters outside the assembly.
Separately, three members of Musharraf's most trusted party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, allied themselves at the last minute with his opponents from the Pakistan People's Party.
Dozens of Musharraf's allies in the provincial assemblies have defected this week as ruling coalition leaders Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif initiated proceedings for his impeachment in a joint session of both houses of Parliament, the National Assembly and Senate.
"This is another victory for Pakistan's ruling coalition and democracy," Information Minister Sherry Rehman told DPA.
The president has earlier refused to bow to the calls for his resignation and has said he would "face the impeachment motion with a democratic spirit."