Thursday, August 07, 2008

President Musharraf of Pakistan to be impeached


Political tension heightened in Pakistan today as it was confirmed that President Musharraf is to be impeached.

The leaders of the two main parties in the coalition, the Pakistan Peoples' Party and the Pakistan Muslim League (N) reached an agreement to force him to stand down in the early hours of this morning.

Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the Pakistan Peoples' Party and Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League( N) faction, will formally request that he steps down, and impeach him through parliamentary measures if he refuses to do so.

A senior member of the ruling coalition said a joint charge sheet against the president is being drawn up. It will leave Mr. Musharraf with options to defend himself before parliament or quit before the vote.

Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League said today: “Musharraf cannot stay in power anymore.”

The President is expected to fight off moves to oust him, saying he would take up the challenge and would not quit. “I will defeat those who try to push me to the wall,“ a defiant president told his supporters. “If they use their right to oust me, I have the right to defend myself.”

The twin issues of President Musharraf's removal and the restoration of Supreme Court judges who were dismissed by the president last November during a brief period of emergency rule have over-shadowed the four-month-old coalition government.

President Musharraf still plans to leave for China today to attend opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics and meet Chinese leaders, despite the impeachment threat. A Pakistani foreign ministry said the visit could not be put off because of special relations with China. An earlier statement had said the trip was cancelled.

The ruling coalition claimed they have the two thirds majority required to remove the president. But the president’s supporters dismiss the claim. Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, leader of the opposition said the impeachment move would fail.

Observers said the impeachment move could further destabilise the country, which is facing severe economic problem and rising Islamic insurgency.

A former General and a close U.S. ally in the global war on terror, Mr. Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999. He stepped down as army chief in December 2007 after he was elected as president for another five years in a controversial election.

He became hugely unpopular after he imposed a temporary emergency rule in the country in November 2007 and sacked the independent minded chief justice.

His allies were defeated in an election in February that resulted in a civilian coalition government led by the party of the late Benazir Bhutto, a two-time prime minister who was assassinated while campaigning last December.

Despite the loss of parliamentary support, Mr. Musharraf has resisted pressure to quit, and has insisted that he was willing to work with the new civilian government.

He has repeatedly said he would not use presidential powers to dismiss the parliament, but Pakistani political circles are rife with speculation that he is manouevring towards this scenario on grounds that the civilian government has proved inept.

Analysts said the impeachment move could increase political disarray the country and force the army to act, although the army leadership has so far kept itself out of the fray.

Political uncertainty has badly affected the economy with inflation reaching a record high. Investors have harboured doubts over whether the civilian coalition government has the ability to arrest the decline. Rising Islamic militancy which has gripped northern areas also threaten to tear apart the country.

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