Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to be impeached (Second lead)

August 7th, 2008 - 9:11 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, Aug 7 (IANS) Pakistan’s ruling coalition Thursday decided to impeach President Pervez Musharraf following his failure to win the trust of the newly elected parliament and also to reinstate the judges he had sacked after declaring an emergency last November. “Good news for democracy in Pakistan!” Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) that leads the ruling coalition, declared as he addressed a news conference to announce the impeachment move.

Sitting by his side, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif of coalition partner Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) nodded grimly.

It was Sharif’s insistence, more than anything else, on the president’s impeachment and the judges’ restoration that had eventually forced Zardari’s hand.

The PPP leader had been soft-pedalling on the two issues and Sharif had initially pulled the PML-N ministers out of the government and had even threatened to quit the coalition, thus raising the spectre of fresh elections.

“The situation has arrived where President Pervez Musharraf will have to go,” Zardari said while reading from a joint communiqué that had been hammered out after three days of meetings between the PPP, the PML-N and the two junior coalition partners.

Zardari also accused Musharraf of being hell bent on derailing the democratic system, adding that more than 60 judges of the higher courts he had sacked would be restored after the president’s impeachment.

Zardari pointed out that Musharraf failed to resign despite his pledge to do so if the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) he backed lost the parliamentary polls - which it had.

“He continues to cling to the office of the president,” Zardari said, adding that Musharraf had also failed to address the new parliament, elected in February.

“The law requires that he should take vote of a confidence from all the assemblies but he did not,” said Zardari

The PPP chief also accused the Musharraf regime of pushing Pakistan towards economic disaster. “His policies have weakened the federation and eroded the trust in national institutions.

“In view of the above, and his failure to take a vote of confidence from the newly elected parliament, it has become imperative to move towards impeaching General Musharraf,” Zardari said.

The impeachment process, he said, would begin in the next few days.

“All the four provincial assemblies and the National Assembly will pass resolutions for impeachment of the president. It will take a few days and will end with impeachment of the president if he doesn’t resign during this period.”

Asked if Musharraf, before his impeachment, would suspend parliament as under the law he has the authority to do so, Zardari replied: “We are not living in 80s or 90s and democratic forces are not so weak.”

Musharraf’s aides said that the president, who cancelled his visit to China for the inaugural ceremony of the Beijing Olympics, is weighing his options and may take extreme measures to ensure his survival.

“Under the constitution there should be very strong reasons for president’s impeachment but I am sorry to say that the present government has no such reasons,” barrister Saif Ali Khan told IANS.

He said the president had every right “to take any step which is in accordance with the law and can consider exercising his right to suspend parliament and the assemblies.”

Sharif, responding to questions at the press conference, said there were enough reasons to impeach the president.

“This is the man who sacked my elected government, who suspended the elected parliament, who sacked the judges and who appointed his near and dear ones without merit,” Sharif pointed out.

Musharraf ally and former minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed termed the impeachment move a “real joke”.

“The process will linger on for more than two months and the people, who are already facing an economic crisis, will have to face more problems,” Ahmed told IANS.

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