Musharraf to stay on despite his allies’ poll defeat

February 25th, 2008 - 7:12 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
DPA
Islamabad, Feb 25 (DPA) Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will complete his five-year term despite the defeat of his political allies in last week’s parliamentary elections, the presidential spokesman said Monday. The statement came in response to recent calls of Pakistani opposition leaders and US senators to the embattled president to voluntarily step down after the country’s main opposition parties swept to power in the National Assembly elections Feb 18.

“Probably it would be a good idea for Musharraf to prepare for an exit strategy,” Joe Biden, US Senator and Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, told ABC News Sunday.

Biden called upon the Pakistan Peoples party (PPP) of the slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) faction led by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif to give a “graceful exit” to Musharraf, a key US ally in fighting Taliban and Al Qaeda extremists along the Afghan border.

Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi rejected calls for resignation of Musharraf, who won a controversial re-election last October by the country’s national and provincial parliaments, which were packed with his supporters.

“It’s very clear that the president has been elected for a period of five years by the representative assemblies, which had been elected by the Pakistani people and not by any senator from the US,” Qureshi told DawnNews TV.

Last week’s polls were for the national provincial parliaments and not a presidential election, he said.

Nonetheless, the polls, which the opposition PPP and PML-N won, were widely viewed as a referendum on Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and has ruled ever since. His political backers, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, finished a distant third and was relegated to the opposition along with Muttahida Qaumi Movement, a junior coalition member.

Musharraf’s popularity plummeted in the weeks before the election after he declared a state of emergency Nov 3, 2007 to prevent the Supreme Court from overturning his re-election the previous month. After sacking dozens of judges and suspending the constitution, he packed the Supreme Court with handpicked justices who reaffirmed his victory.

Having retired as Army chief and with his political allies defeated, Musharraf will have little sway over the incoming parliament and government, though he still controls the country’s nuclear weapons arsenal.

Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in 1999 and will be a junior partner in the new coalition government, reiterated his demand Monday for him to resign or face being impeached.

“On Nov 3 (2007) the judiciary was murdered, that’s why we say he is an unconstitutional and illegal president,” Sharif told reporters in Islamabad. “Musharraf should quit as soon as possible. It would be better for him because the people have given their mandate.”

However, Bhutto’s widower Asif Ali Zardari, who became co-chairman of her winning Pakistan People’s Party after she was assassinated last December, appears willing to have a working relationship with the president - at least for the short term.

“The ground reality is that we do not have two-thirds majority in both the houses of Parliament,” which would be required for a successful impeachment, Zardari said in an interview with The Wall Street Journal.
DPA

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