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'Musharraf ready to give up power'

world Updated: May 03, 2008 21:59 IST

PTI
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President Pervez Musharraf has agreed to give up his powers to dissolve Parliament and dismiss the prime minister following several rounds of secret parleys with the ruling Pakistan People's Party, a media report said on Saturday.

The embattled president conveyed his in-principle assent to the removal of his sweeping powers under Article 58(2b) of the constitution to PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari through a messenger, Dawn News channel reported.

The presidential camp contacted Zardari after several rounds of secret talks between Musharraf's aides and the PPP, the channel said.

However, Musharraf linked the repeal of the controversial constitutional article to two conditions -- that legal cover would be provided to all the actions he had taken as army chief after imposing emergency on November 3 last year, and that the National Security Council would not be scrapped.

The channel also quoted sources in the presidential camp as saying that Musharraf would back the reinstatement of dozens of judges he sacked during the emergency provided he is allowed to serve as constitutional head of state for his full tenure.

Musharraf was re-elected for a five-year term in October last year before he doffed his military uniform.

While the PPP has been saying that it is willing to forge a "working relationship" with Musharraf, its coalition partner PML-N has been insisting that the president should quit. PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif made a fresh demand for Musharraf to step down on Friday while unveiling plans to restore the deposed judges on May 12.

Senior PML-Q leader Tariq Azim, a close confidant of Musharraf, confirmed to Dawn newspaper that efforts "for a quid pro quo were going on" and the presidents' camp is involved in talks with the PPP to "avoid a clash with the new government".

Musharraf's "change of heart" is believed to be the result of "intense consultations that he had been holding with his legal aides over the past two months on the issue of the judges' reinstatement, his own status as President and the fallout of the November 3 emergency", the Dawn reported.

The opposition PML-Q, which backs Musharraf, too said this week that the sacking of the judges was a "mistake" and favoured their reinstatement. In the past few days, Musharraf held several meetings with political aides to discuss the proposed restoration of the judges.

Among those Musharraf met were PML-Q President Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, ex-president Sardar Farooq Ahmed Khan Leghari and former Prime Minister Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, both former members of the PPP. Some sources said the former PPP leaders served as a channel for negotiations with that party.

During these meetings, Musharraf sought suggestions on how to handle the issue of reinstatement of the judges without disturbing his own position, sources said.

The sources said the president's camp was upbeat about the new power-sharing agreement forged by the PPP and MQM, which backs Musharraf. The president's aides, the sources said, were also convinced that the talks in Dubai had failed to resolve some contentious issues between the PPP and PML-N.

The aides are also convinced that the judges cannot be reinstated through a parliamentary resolution and a constitutional amendment would have to be passed by a two-thirds majority in both houses of Parliament.

The sources said the presidential camp is ready to challenge the reinstatement of the judges through a parliamentary resolution in court.

Sources in the presidency said the Awami National Party and Maulana Fazlur Rehman's Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam, which are part of the ruling coalition, backed the talks between the PPP and Musharraf's aides.

Musharraf's legal advisers have reportedly prepared a bill to give indemnity to his actions during emergency by "taking all players in parliament on board", the sources said.