Friday, August 08, 2008

Musharraf to fight impeachment

Al Jazeera, Aug 8. 2008

There are fears that further violence could result from the current impasse [AFP]

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, will defend himself against impeachment, his aides have said.

The announcement came a day after the ruling coalition vowed to launch proceeding to oust him.

Musharraf is set to meet his legal and political advisers on Friday to discuss his options.

“He is considering the options that are available. He will respond to the government’s allegations and defend himself,” a presidential aide told the AFP news agency on condition of anonymity.

Speculation is rife that he may dissolve parliament or declare another state of emergency, moves set to further deepen the current political turmoil in the strife-torn country.

Meanwhile, Yousuf Raza Gilani, the Pakistan prime minister, is heading to China to attend the opening ceremony of the Beijing Olympics.

Musharraf was scheduled to attend the event, but cancelled due to his possible removal from office.

‘Few options’

Tariq Pirzada, a political and strategic affairs anaylst in Islamabad, told Al Jazeera that Musharraf has very few options.

“What we have is a situation where he is isloated, he has no political backing, even the US is not backing him, and labelled the situation as an ‘internal matter’,” he said.

“He is in dire straits, and its either he steps down or faces impeachment.”

The coalition still needs the support of other MPs to oust Musharraf [AFP]

Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, also a former prime minister, announced on Thursday that they would seek Musharraf’s impeachment for allegedly mismanaging the country.

Officials said parliament could begin the impeachment process by filing a charge sheet against Musharraf as early as Monday - which is also Musharraf’s 65th birthday.

The aide who spoke for him said Musharraf would “not wait for the numbers game” - meaning that he would not indulge in political horsetrading to stop the coalition getting the votes it needs.

Under Pakistan’s constitution, impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in the upper and lower houses of parliament.

It would be the first time in Pakistan’s 61-year history that a president has been impeached.

The coalition is currently several seats short of the 295 votes it requires out of the 439 in the senate and national assembly to remove Musharraf.

Zardari’s Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), together with smaller coalition partners, have 266 seats and need a further 29 MPs, mainly from the troubled tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.

Military support

But the key factor in Musharraf’s decision is likely to be the support he gets from the country’s 500,000-strong army, the leadership of which he gave up last November.

General Ashfaq Kayani, the army chief and Musharraf’s successor, has shown no signs of disloyalty and the military has historically acted to defend the honour of its current and former chiefs.

But Kayani has also appeared keen to keep the army out of politics after six decades in which the military has been in power for more than half the time, damaging its image domestically.

Imposing a state of emergency would require Musharraf to have military support, while dissolving parliament could also cause unrest in a country already suffering from widespread economic problems.

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