Musharraf saga heads for final denouement (Lead, Changing Dateline)

August 15th, 2008 - 8:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Aug 15 (IANS) Efforts to save Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf from humiliation and to provide him safe passage out of the country have entered the final phase with pressure mounting on the coalition government to not impeach the military dictator who ruled the country for almost nine years. “Some diplomats are involved in hectic consultations with the president and the leaders of the ruling parties to reach an agreement so that Musharraf is saved from humiliation,” a government source told IANS.

Former British High Commissioner Mark Grant Loyal who was in Pakistan last week had met Musharraf, Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), the two leading parties in the coalition government.

The source said that Loyal played an important role in bringing assassinated PPP chief Benazir Bhutto back to the country. They said that he is now attempting to save from humiliation the man who had served the interests of the United States and Britain.

“Of course, if Musharraf is ditched by his former friends no leader in future will dare to side with these forces,” said one diplomat who is sure that Musharraf will neither be impeached nor arrested on sedition charges as is being made out by Sharif.

However, army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani’s sudden decision to address the cadets’ parade at Kakool Military Academy on Independence Day night Thursday has spread rumours that army has told Musharraf not to expect any undue favours.

Thus, when Musharraf had arranged a soiree at his official residence, Kiyani in a surprise move, went to Kakool to address the first ever midnight ceremony that was termed “Azadi (independence) Parade.” He announced on the occasion that he was setting a new tradition and the parade would be held every year.

A source privy to the developments taking the highest level in the country said that Musharraf could resign before Monday morning.

“However he would be staying in Pakistan for some time before leaving for the United States,” said the source, adding that both Zardari and Sharif are close to agreement that if the president quits and leaves the country before Monday he can be provided safe passage.

Tariq Azim, a former information minister and Musharraf ally, told reporters Friday that efforts are being made for some sort of agreement so that impeachment can be deferred. He, however, refused to say whether the president would stay back or go to another country.

Another political leader in the government said that Musharraf has signalled that he is ready to give up his powers to suspend parliament and appoint military chiefs, as also superior courts judges and provincial governors if he is allowed to continue for another year.

He has sent a clear message that he should be allowed to resign and step down gracefully after a year, the leader said.

“If the government withdraws its plan to impeach the president, he will resign by August next year,” he added.

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