Pressure mounts on Musharraf
PRESIDENT Pervez Musharraf should quit within two days or prepare to be impeached, a top ruling party member said yesterday as officials mulled over a draft of charges against the Pakistani leader.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi's comments added to the mounting pressure on the former army chief, but an ally of Musharraf insisted the president was not stepping down and was prepared to fight impeachment charges he considers absurd.
Allies and rivals of the president have said back channel talks are under way to avoid an impeachment process that could damage public morale.
The ruling coalition has pushed Musharraf to quit. But his supporters want protections for him if he does, while suggesting they could use the courts to subvert impeachment. It has been claimed that Saudi Arabian officials were trying to mediate and officials say diplomats from western and Muslim countries have met in recent days with various actors involved.
The impeachment charges against Musharraf are expected to accuse him of constitutional violations and "gross misconduct".
Coalition officials would not reveal specifics, though they have said his removal of judges and imposition of emergency rule last year could form the basis of those charges. They said a draft of the charge sheet needs final approval but could reach parliament early this week.
"Musharraf is running out of time," Qureshi, a member of the main party in the coalition, the Pakistan People's Party, said yesterday. "If he fails to decide to quit within the next two days, the impeachment process will take its course."
Tariq Azim, a senior member of the main pro-Musharraf party, said the president would not quit. "President Musharraf is confident about defending himself in the parliament and defeating the charge sheet easily because whatever he did, he did in the interest of the country and for the nation," Azim said yesterday.
On Friday, Mushahid Hussain, another Musharraf ally, said the president may turn to the courts to forestall an impeachment. But Raza Rabbani, a People's Party member, warned Musharraf against being misled on his chances in the courts.
"The venue cannot be changed," Rabbani said. "This should be clear to everyone as impeachment is a constitutional affair, and that could only be done through the parliament."
Whether Musharraf decides to quit could depend on what his rivals are willing to offer – in particular if they will give him legal immunity from future prosecution and let him stay in the country.
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