Islamabad: Pakistan’s ruling coalition, led by the party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, announced on Thursday that it would begin impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf, a move likely to deepen political instability in the country.
The uncertainty has taken a toll on Pakistani markets, with the main share index at its weakest in almost two years and the rupee headed back towards all-time lows posted in early July.
Tight spot: Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf. The impeachment move is likely to deepen political instability in the country. Photograph: Shakil Adil/AP
“The coalition leaders believe that it has become imperative to move for impeachment...against General Musharraf,” the head of the coalition and Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, told a news conference with his main coalition partner former prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Shortly afterwards, the foreign ministry announced that Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani, instead of Musharraf, would leave for China on Thursday to attend opening ceremonies for the Beijing Olympics.
The move against the US ally in the war against terrorism could plunge the nuclear-armed Muslim nation into a new bout of political instability unless former army chief Musharraf, who came to power in a coup nine years ago, decided to go quietly.
On Thursday, the Karachi Stock Exchange benchmark 100-share index nudged up 0.3%, 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.
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”.
“The meeting will continue on Friday in which they will discuss issues relating to promotions of brigadiers and other senior officers,” the official said on condition of anonymity.
Musharraf 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 coalition led by Bhutto’s widower and political successor, Asif Ali Zardari, has been negotiating the fate of Musharraf with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif and other coalition partners since Tuesday.
While Musharraf has not yet commented on the impending move against him, his allies have said he would fight the impeachment. REUTERS