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Musharraf may quit to avoid clash

world Updated: Feb 24, 2008 23:32 IST
Vijay Dutt and agencies
Vijay Dutt and agencies
Hindustan Times
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Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf may soon resign to avoid being pushed out by the new coalition of the Pakistan Muslim League(N) and the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), which will shortly assume power, according to a report in The Sunday Telegraph.

A senior political analyst close to the Pakistani establishment, who did not want to be named, also confirmed independently to HT that Musharraf’s departure was very much a possibility. “Our information is that Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif agreed on Saturday to work together to oust the President,” he said on telephone from Islamabad. “So chances are that he will go voluntarily instead of risking impeachment.”

The analyst even named Aitzaz Ahsan, who led the lawyers’ campaign against Musharraf's dismissal of the former Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, and is a PPP stalwart as well, as the likely nominee for the next President. Ahsan has a long and distinguished of opposing dictators, starting with the late Zia-ul Haq. He is currently under house arrest.

Other names doing the rounds as possible contenders for the post of President are those of Asif Zardari himself and Yusuf Raza Gilliani, who was the speaker of the national assembly during Benazir Bhutto’s second term.

Official sources in Islamabad however stoutly denied The Sunday Telegraph report. “One should not attach much credence to it. Nothing of this sort has been discussed in the President’s office,” said Major General Rashid Qureshi, the President’s spokesman.

“It seems unlikely that Musharraf has decided to quit in the light of his recent article that he would complete his five-year term,” said Wajid Shamshul Hasan, former Pakistan high commissioner to Britain. “But if his decision was made after the piece was written, it is the best decision he could have ever made.”

He noted that the PPP and the PML-N were in a position to form a strong coalition government with the help of some other smaller parties. Their emergence as the key players has minimised Musharraf’s options. “Musharraf’s decision to quit despite support for him from Washington means that he has realised that if he does not opt for a respectable exit route, he will have to face impeachment at the hands of the new parliament for violating the Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan,” Hasan added.

There were reports were that Musharraf had considered stepping down immediately after the election results became known. But Washington dissuaded him from making any quick decision. But now, The Sunday Telegraph said, quoting his aides, the President would rather step down than wait to be forced out.

A coalition of the anti-Musharraf parties - the PPP, PML(N) and ANP — will have 211 MPs, just short of the 228 needed for a two thirds majority that can enable them to launch impeachment proceedings against the president. The remaining support could well be got from smaller parties and independents.