Pakistan’s coalition government pushing Musharraf to resign (Lead)

May 26th, 2008 - 12:56 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Muhammad Najeeb
Islamabad, May 26 (IANS) The coalition government and the presidency in Pakistan are fast moving towards a possible showdown, with President Pervez Musharraf likely to choose to “resign from office”, official sources said Monday. “Tough times lie ahead for the president and the only option for him is to resign without delay,” an official told IANS, adding that otherwise he might have to face impeachment.

The official said that the coalition government is pushing Musharraf to resign since the US does not want his impeachment.

The US is making a concerted effort to persuade Asif Ali Zardari, co-chair of the ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), to meet Musharraf and develop a working relationship with him.

“Many well-wishers have suggested to me to meet Musharraf in person and discuss the political problems in detail to find some solution,” The News Monday quoted Zardari as saying.

The well-wishers, the newspaper said, have been emissaries of the US, followed by two top US senators currently visiting Pakistan and “everyone who matters”.

“I am hopeful that the outcome of my meeting with Musharraf will not disappoint the people of Pakistan,” Zardari replied enigmatically when asked what the agenda of the meeting would be.

The Bush administration apparently pressed the panic button after Zardari, in a recent media interview, termed Musharraf “a relic of the past” who had no place in the new Pakistani dispensation.

Zardari repeated the line to senators Carl Levin and Bob Casey who met him Sunday, saying “in so many words that Musharraf was no longer part of the solution, rather he was the problem”, The News said.

The US message has been that the PPP should not humiliate Musharraf by impeaching him as Zardari has threatened to do.

Zardari has countered this by saying that Musharraf had been totally rejected by the majority of voters in the Feb 18 polls and the Bush administration should respect the people’s verdict.

Sources said Zardari might ask Musharraf to resign in return for a ’safe exit’, which implies that he will not face any charges in court.

Twenty-five retired army generals last week urged the government to file cases against Musharraf for breaching the constitution and taking illegal steps since 1999, including dissolving the parliament and dismissing the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.

In an interview with a private TV channel, Zardari said he was under tremendous pressure to impeach the president.

Former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, an ally of Zardari, has been publicly demanding Musharraf’s impeachment, saying he should also be charged with treason for violating the constitution.

“Until a few days ago, Zardari had been working hard to take Musharraf along in the name of national reconciliation. But he faced a lot of criticism and his party was dubbed as Musharraf’s ‘A’ team rather than his ‘B’ team,” The News said.

Thus, he has not only rejected the US pressure on him but has also urged the Bush administration to delay the proposed visit of US Under Secretary of State John Negroponte to Pakistan later this week.

Negroponte had visited Pakistan in the last week of March and Zardari is of the view that another visit may convey an impression to the people that the US is interfering in Pakistan’s affairs and attempting to rescue Musharraf.

Meanwhile, the threats to impeach Musharraf “have not gone down well” with the Pakistan Army high command, with “discreet messages” being sent to Zardari to “resolve all the issues through dialogue”, The News said.

“The fear in political circles is that a cornered Musharraf might use his constitutional powers to dissolve the National Assembly. He is still the supreme commander of the armed forces and can order the army chief to implement his orders against the elected government,” it added.

In 1993, then president Ghulam Ishaq Khan had developed differences with prime minister Nawaz Sharif, prompting the army chief, General Abdul Waheed Kakar to intervene and as a result of which both the president and the prime minister had to resign.

“The present army high command wants to avoid a similar situation,” The News noted.

However, the army wants Musharraf to vacate the house that is officially the residence of the army chief.

Musharraf, who quit as army chief a day before taking oath as civilian president last December, is residing in the Army House and has declared it the Presidential Camp Office.

An official said the defence ministry has written to the Prime Minister’s Secretariat, asking it to get the president to vacate the house.

“The letter will soon be forwarded to the presidency,” said the official.

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