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What is next for General Musharraf?

Impeachment or a walkout gracefully, the options seem to be narrowing for the Pakistani president.

world Updated: Feb 27, 2008 14:30 IST

Impeachment or an honourable walkout - the options could be narrowing for Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who has ruled for eight years and now finds himself isolated as the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) firm up plans for government formation.

"The sooner he (Musharraf) steps down, the better it is," former prime minister Nawaz Sharif reiterated on Wednesday.

"This is the most safe exit for him...otherwise we (opposition) are going to get two-thirds majority," Sharif said in Islamabad.

The antipathy is not surprising. Musharraf is the man who as army chief overthrew Sharif's elected government in October 1999 and a year later sent him into exile.

Sharif, with the help of Saudi rulers, managed his return in November last year to lead his PML-Nawaz to 66 seats in the recent general elections, becoming the second largest party after the PPP that won 88 seats in the National Assembly.

"If he does not step down we'll go for his impeachment," PML-N leader Zafar Ali Shah told IANS.

The PML-N and the PPP have reached an understanding to form governments at the centre and in Punjab.

"We'll support PPP in the federal government and they'll support us in Punjab," said Shah.

Shah said that Musharraf has now just one option to quit as president while "we have many to remove him".

Though Musharraf has said that he's ready to work with any government, Sharif has refused point blank. Unfortunately for Musharraf, PPP chairperson Asif Ali Zardari has also denied media reports that his party was ready to work with the president.

PPP spokesperson Sherry Rehman said Zardari's remarks were twisted. "He only said that parliament will decide about Musharraf's future and the new government will see how to work with Musharraf," she told reporters.

The Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), which was backed by Musharraf and came to an embarrassing third in the polls, has also decided to distance itself, said a senior party leader.

However, Musharraf's spokesperson Rashid Qureshi said the president was not concerned about winning parties and who forms the government.

"He was elected president for five years and will continue until five years," Qureshi told TV channels.

The PML-Q could only get 39 seats in the National Assembly that has a total of 342 seats, 272 of them to be filled through the poll. The elections were held on 268 seats as polling was cancelled in four because of the death of two candidates, including former prime minister and PPP chief Benazir Bhutto and law and order problems in two other constituencies.

Sixty seats in the National Assembly are reserved for women and 10 for non-Muslims. These 70 seats are divided among the winning parties on a proportional representation system.