Pakistan’s coalition mounts pressure on Musharraf to quit

August 17th, 2008 - 10:46 pm ICT by IANS  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
Islamabad, Aug 17 (DPA) A senior leader of Pakistan’s ruling party Sunday asked President Pervez Musharraf to “pack his bag and go” immediately as the governing coalition readied itself to start impeachment proceedings next week if the embattled leader refused to step down. “Musharraf has lost the mandate of people and should tender his resignation,” Senator Raza Rabbani, of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said after attending a meeting that prepared the final draft of the charge sheet against the former army chief.

Though there was no official word on the charges, the PPP’s chief Asif Ali Zardari and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif last week accused the president of constitutional violations and gross misconduct.

Rabbani said Musharraf had no justification - political, moral or legal - for clinging to power as all four provincial assemblies, which along with parliament constituted his electoral college, passed resolutions against him over the week.

“He no longer represents the federation of Pakistan,” he added.

Some of Musharraf’s close friends have been in negotiations with the PPP, the leading party in the ruling coalition, to secure legal immunity for his actions since the 1999 coup in return for his voluntarily stepping down.

Last week, senior US, British and Saudi officials also made hectic diplomatic efforts to broker a deal, which according to PPP sources should be struck before Tuesday when the coalition was planning to table an impeachment resolution in the lower house of parliament.

“The president will have to take a decision by today or tomorrow. If he resigns, we will not impeach him. But once the impeachment is put in process, he may face a different situation,” Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi warned Saturday.

Rabbani refuted the reports that the PPP was in contact with the beleaguered president and said the coalition leaders and the country’s parliament will have the final word on whether to give Musharraf “safe exit”.

The popularity of Musharraf, a key US ally in the international fight against terrorism, began to plummet in March 2007 when he axed the then Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry, an independent-minded judge, who had ruled against his government on several sensitive issues.

Faced with countrywide protests, Musharraf reinstated Chaudhry in July 2007 - only to re-sack him Nov 3 under an emergency order. The move came when the Supreme Court was set to rule on Musharraf’s controversial re-election for a second presidential term.

The measure attracted wide criticism from the Pakistani public as well as international rights organisations, and it led to a thrashing defeat of his political allies in Feb 18 nationwide elections.

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