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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

All set for Musharraf impeachment

The Pakistani government summons the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to meet Monday evening to initiate the impeachment process against President Pervez Musharraf.

world Updated: Aug 10, 2008 00:07 IST
Muhammad Najeeb
Muhammad Najeeb

The Pakistani government has summoned the National Assembly, the lower house of parliament, to meet Monday evening to initiate the impeachment process against President Pervez Musharraf, charging him with abrogating the constitution and damaging the country's democratic processes.

The National Assembly will meet at 5 p.m.

"This impeachment is in accordance with the constitution and the law and no other authority like the Supreme Court can interfere in it," Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) spokesman Ahsan Iqbal told reporters Saturday.

"A wrong impression is being created that the ruling coalition will need the support of the opposition parties to get the impeachment resolution passed. We have the required numbers and more people have contacted us to support the resolution," he said.

Under the constitution, a two-thirds majority is required to impeach the president.

The ruling parties claim support of more than 310 members, more than 295 required to impeach the president in both houses of parliament - the Senate and the National Assembly.

The present strength of the National Assembly is 340 with two seats lying vacant whereas the Senate or the upper house has 100 members.

While the coalition parties are preparing a "charge sheet" against Musharraf, reports say that the president continued to consult legal experts Saturday while constitutional experts have also advised him to approach the Supreme Court for relief.

But Musharraf is fast losing support from his former aides who were his big supporters before he left the army in December.

Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the former ruling party Pakistan Muslim League-Q, has said Musharraf has only two options - he should face impeachment or resign.

He told reporters that the army should be kept away from the impeachment issue and it should be dealth with constitutionally.

However, PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, who met Musharraf Saturday, said the president was reviewing political developments and will decide the future course of action after considering charges levelled by the ruling coalition.

Talking to reporters after meeting the president, Shujaat Hussain said Musharraf should face the impeachment motion and PML-Q, which has supported the dictator for nine years, will only support him in the motion if he he faced it "democratically".

He, however, made it clear that if the president tried to use article 58-2(b) of the constitution under which he can suspend parliament, he will have no support from PML-Q.

Shujaat suggested that Musharraf should step down before the start of the impeachment proceedings and and should take the opportunity to make an honourable exit.

On the other hand, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gillani, who returned from China Saturday, said the people of Pakistan will soon get "good news" about a "new dawn of democracy" for which political leaders and masses have paid a heavy price during the last eight years.

He pointed out that Musharraf toppled the democratically elected government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, dealing a big blow to the country's democratic institutions.

He termed the dismissal of the Sharif government as totally unconstitutional and illegal and said the people of Pakistan had strongly reacted against it.

Gillani said the people had given a clear-cut mandate in the February general elections, seeking a change of guard to put the country on the track of a "true democracy".

The PML-N, in the forefront of the campaign to impeach the president, has decided on "token rejoining" of the federal cabinet. Four of its nine former ministers, Mehtab Ahmed Khan, Ahsan Iqbal, Saad Rafiq and Tanveer Hussain, will now be part of the cabinet.

The PML-N had withdrawn its ministers in June after the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), which leads the ruling coalition, failed to restore more than 60 judges of the higher courts who Musharraf sacked after declaring an emergency last November.

The PPP has now assured the PML-N that the judges will be restored after Musharraf's impeachment, which may take two months.

PML-N leader Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters that the four leaders were rejoining the cabinet as a reconciliatory gesture between PPP co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and Sharif.

"It was decided in the party meeting that the four leaders will join the federal cabinet," he added.

Talking about the impeachment procedure, Nisar said this would begin with the adoption of no-confidence resolutions by four provincial assemblies and doing away with the powers Musharraf enjoys under Article 58(2)b of the constitution.

In Lahore, Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif told reporters the resolution relating to the impeachment of the president would be presented in the Punjab assembly Monday, which would ask the president to take a vote of confidence from the assemblies.