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Pakistan parties to discuss Musharraf’s successor

Pakistan parties to discuss Musharraf’s successor
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First Published: Tue, Aug 19 2008. 12 24 PM IST
Updated: Tue, Aug 19 2008. 12 24 PM IST
Islamabad: Pakistan’s law minister said Tuesday that the government had not struck an immunity deal with Pervez Musharraf, who resigned this week as the nation’s president in the face of possible impeachment.
Also Tuesday, ruling coalition leaders were expected to meet to discuss replacing the ousted president and possibly decide on how to deal with restoring dozens of judges he fired last year.
Law Minister Farooq Naek told reporters that coalition leaders had yet to make decisions on “accountability” for Musharraf. The second-biggest party in the government has said the longtime U.S.-backed leader should be tried for treason, which could lead to the death penalty.
“There is no deal with the president, and he had himself resigned,” Naek said.
Local media reports have suggested Musharraf might leave the country for security reasons _ he is despised by Islamist militants and deeply unpopular among ordinary Pakistanis.
During his resignation speech Monday, the president did not specify his plans, saying only that his future was in the hands of the people. Musharraf’s exit leaves the politicians who pushed out the stalwart American ally facing severe challenges such as militancy and economic problems in an already impoverished and volatile country.
Besides discussing possible presidents and the judges, coalition leaders will discuss “the future plans of Musharraf” said Farhatullah Babar, a ruling party spokesman.
Babar also confirmed that the National Assembly speaker accepted Musharraf’s resignation Monday night, while Mohammedmian Soomro, the Senate chairman, had taken charge as acting president.
Pakistan’s president is elected by lawmakers, a process that is supposed to be completed within 30 days.
How the coalition government deals with succession whether it leads to a power struggle or a united front _ is a looming question at a critical time for the country. Analysts say earlier infighting over Musharraf’s future and the mechanics of bringing back the judges had distracted the government from tackling important issues.
“There is a huge challenge ahead,” said Shafqat Mahmood, a political analyst. “Now this whole Musharraf excuse is behind us. Now people are going to be focusing on their performance.”
Musharraf, seized power in a 1999 coup and dominated Pakistan for years, supporting the U.S. in the war on terror. But his popularity sank over time.
Pakistanis blamed rising violence in the country on the Musharraf’s alliance with Washington. For many, his decisions to sack the judges and impose temporary emergency rule last year aimed at avoiding challenges to his rule were a final straw.
His rivals won February parliamentary elections, largely sidelining him while clamoring for him to quit. They announced an impeachment campaign earlier this month, leading Musharraf to ultimately calculate he could not stay.
In his speech Monday, Musharraf listed the many problems now facing Pakistan, including its sinking economy and a chronic power shortages, and suggested his opponents were targeting him to mask their own failings.
“I am going with the satisfaction that whatever I have done was for the people and for the country ... I hope the nation and the people will forgive my mistakes,” he said.
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First Published: Tue, Aug 19 2008. 12 24 PM IST