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Pakistani media calls for Musharraf to go quietly

"For the sake of all of us, please maintain your dignity and go quietly," wrote the News, the English language flagship of the powerful Jang media group.

world Updated: Aug 08, 2008 11:43 IST

Pakistani newspapers implored President Pervez Musharraf to resign, rather than drag the country through more political upheaval, a day after the leaders of the civilian coalition declared plans to impeach him.

"For the sake of all of us, please maintain your dignity and go quietly," wrote the News, the English language flagship of the powerful Jang media group.

That's what they're hoping. But many editorials on Friday feared the former commando who seized power in a coup nine years ago will demonstrate his characteristic fighting spirit at the wrong time.

"President Pervez Musharraf is not among those people who will resign for the sake of the country or to protect his honour," said Nawa-i-Waqt a leading Urdu language daily.

"Had he wished to do that, he could have resigned immediately after the February 18 elections," it wrote, referring to polls that stripped Musharraf of parliamentary support and was widely interpreted as a referendum on his rule.

Pakistanis have mastered the art of predicting the unexpected in the course of a turbulent history that has seen the Muslim nation yo-yo between civilian and military rule in the 61 years since the country was formed out of the partition of India.

"Unless something out of the ordinary happens, President Pervez Musharraf's political fate has been sealed," the Dawn newspaper said.

Army commanders were meeting for a second day on Friday in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to Islamabad.

The general's reaction to the prospect of their former chief being booted out will be critical to Pakistan's latest attempt to make democracy work.

The News summed up the situation with a front page headline: "Litmus test for army's neutrality".

Musharraf has powers to dissolve the hostile parliament.

But The Nation, a conservative daily, believed that won't happen because of Musharraf's own unpopularity, opposition from mainstream parties and their smaller allies, as well as from a robust lawyers movement and other sections of civil society.

"He can save the country a lot of trouble by resigning voluntarily," said the Nation, a Lahore-based newspaper that tends to reflect conservative views.

Pakistan's media turned decisively against Musharraf after he clamped down on reporting, particularly by television news channels, as his grip on power began to slide in 2007.

The Jang group became even stronger in its attacks after Musharraf blocked its Geo News channel from airing when he imposed emergency rule for a few weeks at the end of last year.

While wanting to see Musharraf quit to end the political deadlock, and decisively break with the previous era of military rule, newspapers recognised that his going would be no panacea for Pakistan's economic ills or rising Islamist militancy.

Intense horse-trading was expected if the coalition is going to muster the two-thirds majority needed in parliament to secure Musharraf's impeachment.

A session of the National Assembly has been called for Monday, August 11, Musharraf's 65th birthday, to start the process.

But the Daily Times noted that this was just the beginning of a problematic process to bring Musharraf to book.

"There are as many chances of his resigning as there are of impeachment failing," the country's most liberal newspaper said.