Pakistan's ruling coalition's move to impeach President Pervez Musharraf gained momentum on Monday after the Punjab provincial assembly voted overwhelmingly for a resolution asking him to quit or seek a vote of confidence in Parliament.
321 members in the 371-strong Punjab Assembly supported the resolution moved by Law Minister Rana Sanaullah. Though the opposition PML-Q has 84 members in the assembly, only 25 members voted against it, indicating the lack of support for Musharraf among his allies.
The resolution called on parliament to move an impeachment motion against Musharraf if he does not resign or seek a vote of confidence. It also accused Musharraf of subverting, undermining and violating the constitution, derailing democracy and bringing the country to the brink of economic and political disaster.
Lawmakers chanted "Go Musharraf Go!" for several minutes, as the result of the voting was announced.
Though the adoption of the resolution by the Punjab assembly does not have any legal implications, the ruling coalition is hoping to mount pressure on Musharraf to quit through its passage.
The provincial assemblies of Sindh, North West Frontier Province and Balochistan are expected to pass similar resolutions this week. The tabling of the impeachment motion and a chargesheet against Musharraf in parliament will follow this.
Speaking to reporters in Lahore after the assembly had passed the resolution, PML-N president and Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif said martial law was bad for all countries but it was worse if members of an assembly passed resolutions in support of a dictator as was done in the past in the provincial assembly.
"Those stains have been washed away and the doors have been closed forever for dictators like Musharraf and martial law. The chapter of dictatorship has been buried forever with the adoption of the resolution," Shahbaz said.
Pakistan People's Party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif would ensure the restoration of judges deposed during last year's emergency after Musharraf's impeachment, he added.
Musharraf should act on his own slogan of "Pakistan first" and "show mercy" to the country and people by resigning, Shahbaz said.The resolution asked Musharraf to seek a vote of confidence in parliament in keeping with a commitment he had made in the Supreme Court last year. Sources said up to 30 members of the PML-Q, which backs Musharraf, had voted against him.
Before the resolution was taken up in the assembly, dissident PML-Q legislator Ata Muhammad Maneka said he and 34 other party members of the Punjab assembly would support the move to impeach Musharraf. Accusing the President of violating the constitution and financial irregularities, Maneka apologised to the nation for supporting Musharraf in the past.
"The resolutions in the provincial assemblies are aimed at exerting moral pressure on President Musharraf," PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
Meanwhile, the federal cabinet will meet on Wednesday to ratify the move to impeach Musharraf. The meeting will be presided over by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani.
The cabinet will be apprised about details of the chargesheet being prepared by PPP and PML-N against Musharraf. The meeting will also discuss the political scenario in the country and review the law and order situation.