Lawmakers in Pakistan's most powerful province have accused President Pervez Musharraf of gross misconduct and demanded he step down, an opening salvo in the ruling coalition's campaign to oust the defiant former army chief. The political battle unfolded on Monday as witnesses reported Pakistan's military rained bombs on militants in a tribal region along the border with Afghanistan in fighting that has killed dozens of people and forced thousands to flee in recent days. The events underscored the volatility in Pakistan, a politically and economically struggling country whose help is seen by Washington as critical to winning the war on extremist groups. Legislators in Punjab province's assembly voted overwhelmingly, 321-25, for the anti-Musharraf resolution, even drawing support from 35 members of the main pro-Musharraf party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.
Lawmakers from the national governing coalition chanted "Go, Musharraf, go!" and stood in support of the resolution, which called the longtime U.S. ally "unfit" to serve and accused him of violating the constitution, gross misconduct and economic mismanagement.
Though the measure carries no constitutional weight, it ramps up the pressure on the president.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and dominated Pakistan for years, but he grew increasingly unpopular, especially after he removed dozens of judges and declared emergency rule last year. He has been largely sidelined since his foes won February's parliamentary elections.
Pakistan is under intense American pressure to root out Islamic militants in its tribal regions on the Afghan frontier _ areas that are considered havens for insurgents attacking U.S. and NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan.
On Monday, Pakistani military forces dropped bombs and shot at suspected militant positions as part of an offensive that began last week in Bajur tribal region, witnesses said.
Officials have reported at least 100 militants and nine paramilitary troops killed in the dayslong fighting. Witnesses said aerial bombardments on Sunday and Monday killed at least 13 people, but it was unclear who all the victims were.
Witnesses and local media said thousands had fled villages. About 200 people, many of them women and children, waited at the main bus stand of Khar as darkness fell on Monday.