Musharraf resigns after nine years in power (Second Lead)

August 18th, 2008 - 4:29 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf

Islamabad, Aug 18 (IANS) Workers of political parties danced on the streets and the Karachi stock exchange shot up as Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf Monday announced his resignation from office during a televised address to the nation, ending an era in Pakistani politics that started almost nine years ago when he toppled the Nawaz Sharif government. As the ruling coalition prepared to impeach him after resolutions in the provincial assemblies seeking his removal, Musharraf spoke to the nation directly over television and radio for about an hour.

“In the best interest of the nation and to avoid any confrontation I today announce my resignation,” said an apparently disturbed Musharraf, making the address that was telecast live from the Army House - from where he ruled the country for eight years, ten months and six days after overthrowing the elected government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif in October 1999.

In his address, he counted his government’s successes in the last nine years saying he took over when the country was about to be declared a terrorist state and financially a failed state.

“I worked my level best to bring the country at par with the top developing nations,” he said.

For the first half hour of Musharraf’s speech, as he listed the achievements of the government he had led for nearly nine years, there was no indication that he was about to resign.

Musharraf repeatedly said the charges brought against him by politicians were false and none of them could be proven. “Whatever I have done, it has been according to my slogan ‘Pakistan First’,” he said.

It was only towards the end of his speech that Musharraf announced his resignation. His resignation letter would be sent to the speaker of the National Assembly by the end of Monday, he added.

The resignation announcement led to jubilation among supporters of the Pakistan Peoples Party who had gathered outside the home of Asif Alai Zardari to watch Musharraf’s speech on television.

Soon after the announcement the Pakistani rupee gained 1.20 against the US dollar and the KSE-100 index of the country’s main stock market in Karachi - that had witnessed an unprecedented slide in the last three months - rose by 5.2 percent.

Senior members of Pakistan’s ruling coalition were quick to welcome the resignation announcement. “This is the right step; otherwise we were ready to table the impeachment motion in the parliament,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told IANS.

“This (resignation) is certainly going to improve the political situation in the country and will lead to stability,” leading businessman Akram Sohaib Motiwala told IANS. He said not only the stock market, overall business activity would now gain momentum.

Musharraf said he resigned because he wanted to avoid confrontation and further division with his political opponents that would have created instability in Pakistan.

“My attempt was always in creating an atmosphere of reconciliation. No victimisation, no vendetta,” he said. “But a situation of confrontation was created instead of reconciliation,” he added.

The former Pakistani president said he wanted to contribute and help the coalition government to run Pakistan and to deal with the challenges before the nation. “Unfortunately, they saw me as the problem not the solution.”

Musharraf criticised the current rulers of Pakistan repeatedly. He said that the country’s economy, which was good only eights months back, was now in bad shape. He provided some details and promised more. “I’ve written a paper that would be released to the media so that you can know the reality.”

Musharraf in his address said that some friends and well-wishers gave him some options other than resignation but “I am against confrontation and I cannot do anything which is against the country”.

Musharraf ended his speech in almost choked voice, praying for the country’s prosperity and saying: “I have fought for almost 44 years for my country and am ready to lay down my life…My decision is to save the country.”

Musharraf, who celebrated his 65th birthday on Aug 11, announced his resignation after a meeting with Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani Monday morning. “The meeting was held at the president’s camp office and it went for more than one hour,” said an official.

There were unconfirmed reports here that Musharraf would be flying to Saudi Arabia in a plane that was ready and waiting. “The army has secured a safe exit for him and right now he will be going to Saudi Arabia from where he may go to some other country,” said an official.

But the coalition’s second-largest constituent, the Pakistan Mulsim League - Nawaz, is against safe passage for Musharraf.

“Musharraf is the man who ruined the country and now giving him safe exit means to forgive people who make a mockery of the country,” spokesman for Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz Ahsan Iqbal told IANS. He said Musharraf should be tried in court “for his misdeeds in the last nine years”.

Ironically Musharraf after overthrowing Nawaz Sharif’s government sent him to Saudi Arabia into forced exile and always said that he would never allow Sharif to return to the country or contest elections.

Sharif managed his return in last November and led his party to second position in the February polls, to the surprise of many.

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