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Sunday, Dec 15, 2019

Pakistan edges toward Musharraf impeachment

President Pervez Musharraf's spokesman says he will not resign despite the move by Pakistan's ruling coalition to finalise impeachment charges against him over the weekend.

world Updated: Aug 18, 2008 08:37 IST
Stephen Graham
Stephen Graham

President Pervez Musharraf's spokesman says he will not resign despite the move by Pakistan's ruling coalition to finalise impeachment charges against him over the weekend.

Musharraf is holding out against intense pressure to resign from political foes who swept February elections and relegated the stalwart US ally to the sidelines.

With Musharraf's utility fading, Western concerns are less with his ultimate fate than about how the clamor is affecting the halting efforts of the new civilian government against terrorism and gathering economic woes.

On Sunday, a committee of the ruling coalition finalized a list of impeachment charges against Musharraf after five days of talks, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.

A senior coalition leader said the charges included "a plethora of actions" taken by Musharraf in "gross violation" of the constitution.

"He should tender his resignation, pack up his bags, and go," Sen. Raza Rabbani told reporters after the committee meeting in Islamabad. "Whatever little moral authority was left has now been completely eroded."

However, the officials released no details of the charges, which now go to coalition chiefs for a final decision on launching impeachment proceedings in Parliament.

They also were vague about the timing, leaving space for more back-channel talks aimed at smoothing a possible Musharraf exit and avoiding an unprecedented impeachment process.

If coalition leaders give a green light, "we will be presenting (the list) as part of a resolution and charge sheet in the joint houses and, God willing, that should happen this week," Rehman said.

The coalition insists it will easily secure the required two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses of Parliament to oust Musharraf.

Musharraf, they argue, should quit now to spare the nation from a divisive political showdown.

The president has acknowledged that his imposition of temporary emergency rule last year was unconstitutional. He used the interregnum to fire dozens of senior judges and ward off legal challenges to him continuing as president.

However, he insists that he defeated a conspiracy to derail Pakistan's return to democracy and acted exclusively in the national interest.

Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi said Sunday that Musharraf would soldier on.

"This thing must be clear to everyone that President Musharraf is not going to resign, period," Qureshi told The Associated Press. He said he was unaware of any secrets talks.

Still, some current and former supporters have suggested that Musharraf might yield in return for guarantees he will not be prosecuted or forced into exile, and officials say Western and Arab emissaries have been in talks with the main parties. Some analysts point to the lack of overt support from either the army or Washington, Musharraf's main props during his eight years in power, in predicting that he will ultimately quit.

US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the Pakistani president's future was an internal issue. While Musharraf was a "good ally" who "kept his word" on ending military rule, whether he should resign "is a matter for Pakistan to determine," she said.

Going after the unpopular and marginalized Musharraf has allowed the coalition to deflect attention from problems such as runaway inflation and Islamic extremism raging across the northwest. The coalition includes the party of Nawaz Sharif, whose government was ousted in Musharraf's 1999 coup and who is calling for the ex-general to be tried for treason _ a charge that can be punished with the death penalty.

The Pakistan People's Party has taken a milder tone. Rehman said the People's Party would shun the "politics of revenge" that scars the 61-year history of the South Asia nation.

"We want stability in the country, we want political stability. We want to make progress in the light of the mandate that has been given to our government," Rehman said.