Pakistan coalition confident of Musharraf’s impeachment (Lead)August 8th, 2008 - 8:00 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad, Aug 8 (DPA) Pakistan’s ruling coalition said Friday it was comfortably placed in parliament to win an impeachment vote against beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf. “The impeachment requires 295 votes in the 442-member joint session of the both houses of the parliament - National Assembly and Senate. And we have 305 members, which clearly make up for two-thirds majority,” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told DPA.
She said she expected that the actual number of votes against Musharraf would go far beyond the required two-thirds majority.
Coalition leaders Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, also an ex-premier, announced Thursday that they would impeach Musharraf, blaming him for the economic crisis and severe power shortages the country is currently facing.
The president would first be asked by the country’s four provincial assemblies to seek a vote of confidence from the presidential electoral college, comprising both houses of the parliament and four provincial assemblies.
If the president fails to get that vote, the coalition would start impeachment proceedings as early as Aug 11, which is also Musharraf’s 65th birthday.
The move can deepen the political crisis in the country, which is already troubled by rising Islamic militancy in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province, with Musharraf still armed with the constitutional powers to dissolve parliament and impose emergency rule in the country.
But the information minister shrugged off the threat. “The president’s impeachment is a historic moment. I don’t see any use of an anti-democratic move.”
She said Musharraf’s trial would be “a smooth transition from dictatorship to real democracy.”
A close aide to Musharraf, who is a senior leader from his Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), vowed to defend him.
“He has the right to defend himself, he has a right to fight back. And we feel that he has a lot of support within the parliament,” said Mushahid Hussain, PML-Q general secretary.
But he admitted that the president had made many mistakes. “Especially, it was the last year, 2007, which was a year of disaster.”
In March 2007, Musharraf sacked the top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry, an independent-minded justice who had challenged the government on several sensitive issues. He was restored after countrywide protests in his support, but only to be re-sacked under an emergency order Nov 3.
The move, highly unpopular among the public, led to the Feb 18 defeat of his political backers in the parliamentary elections.
Once viewed as a strongman, Musharraf stands besieged now, political commentator Rasool Bux Raees said.
The US, which has been relying heavily on him in its fight against Islamic extremists, Thursday called Musharraf’s impeachment a matter of Pakistan’s “internal politics”.
“Our expectation is that any action will be consistent with the rule of law and the Pakistani constitution,” the acting deputy spokesman of the US State Department, Gonzalo R. Gallegos, told reporters Thursday.
Meanwhile, Sharif’s party said it had decided to rejoin the cabinet, which they quit on Zardari’s reluctance to restore the deposed judges. But Wednesday the two leaders also promised the justices’ reinstatement.
“Only four of our ministers will rejoin the cabinet in appreciation for PPP’s bold decision to support us on General Musharraf’s impeachment issue,” said PML-N spokesman Ahsan Iqbal.
He said the remaining five would return once the judges are restored.
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