Musharraf faces impeachment

ISLAMABAD - Leaders of Pakistan's four-party ruling coalition yesterday warned President Musharraf against exercising his powers to dismiss the government after they decided to ask him to seek vote of confidence - simultaneously initiating the legal process for his impeachment.



By From Afzal Khan

Published: Sat 9 Aug 2008, 1:24 AM

Last updated: Sun 5 Apr 2015, 5:01 PM

A joint declaration issued at the conclusion of the three-day meeting between Pakistan People's Party (PPP) co-chairman Asif Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif further said that all deposed judges including Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry would be restored in accordance with the Murree Declaration of March 9 after the impeachment.

Musharraf has limited options that he has been intensely discussing with his allies and legal advisers. He can dismiss assemblies or declare financial emergency for which he has been preparing the ground for the last couple of weeks by painting a grim picture of the economic and administrative conditions. Analysts say Zardari sensed his intentions and reverted to Nawaz Sharif for support. Musharraf’s spokesman was not immediately available but his allies said he would fight the impeachment move.

Zardari and Sharif warned Musharraf that democratic forces were united and would hit back if he tried to exercise his power under Article 58-2 (B) to dissolve the assemblies.

“The coalition leaders believe that it has become imperative to move for impeachment,” Zardari, flanked by his major coalition partner former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, told a news conference yesterday.

“This person committed an oppression against Pakistan. That’s why the parliament has decided to impeach him,” Sharif said.

Zardari said special sessions of provincial and National assemblies would be requisitioned to adopt resolutions that would ask Musharraf to seek vote of confidence from them in accordance with his written commitment to the Supreme Court in October last at the time of presidential election.

He said he has also requested Nawaz Sharif's PML-N to rejoin the federal cabinet. The PML-N quit the cabinet on the question of failure to restore judges by the deadline of May 12 in accordance with the Murree Declaration. Sharif said he would consult his party leaders on Friday and give his response to Zardari's request.

The response of the army to the prospect of a humiliating exit for its former chief will be crucial. Army commanders met in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, close to Islamabad, on Thursday but a military official said ”it was a routine meeting”.

Musharraf seized power as a General in 1999 by toppling Sharif and effectively ruled Pakistan single-handedly for eight years, but became considerably weakened after he stepped down as chief of the country’s powerful army which has run the country for more than half of its 61 years of independence.

He has become increasingly unpopular at home and lost parliamentary support after his allies suffered a massive defeat in February elections, but has resisted calls to stand down.

”The economic policies pursued by General Musharraf during (the) last 8 years have brought Pakistan to the brink of critical economic impasse,” a joint statement read by Zardari said.

“He has worked to undermine the transition to democracy,” it added.

Some analysts say the jockeying for political power has distracted from needed moves to deal with Pakistan’s economic problems and the effort to control violent Islamic militants, especially along the border with Afghanistan.

The United States and the Afghanistan government say the border areas are key shelters for Taliban and al Qaeda fighters.

Musharraf had previously said he would resign rather than face impeachment proceedings. Even so, Pakistani political circles have been awash with speculation he could dismiss parliament in an attempt to prevent it.

LAST VERDICT

Both Zardari and Sharif warned him against any such move.

“If he does it, it will be his last verdict against (the) people, against (the) people’s mandate and against Pakistan,” Zardari said.

“Democracy is not so weak that this article ... could be invoked.”

Under the Pakistani constitution, a president could be ousted if an impeachment motion wins a two-thirds majority of the combined strength of the National Assembly and Senate.

Zardari was confident the impeachment motion would be passed with an overwhelming majority. “We have votes and we also have the courage,” he said.

Analysts said while an impeachment motion could be tabled this month, it could be several weeks before it was put for a vote as parliament might investigate the charges and the president could appear to defend himself.

Shortly before the formal announcement of the impeachment decision, the foreign ministry said Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, instead of Musharraf, would leave for China on Thursday to attend opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.

On Thursday, Pakistani stocks had nudged up 0.3 percent, closing at 9,707.29 on turnover of 88.5 million shares, kept in check by anticipation of the formal announcement of the impeachment by the ruling parties.

If the resolution passed, Musharraf would be the first president of the country to be impeached.


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