Musharraf gets 2-day ultimatum to step down

Musharraf gets 2-day ultimatum to step down
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First Published: Sun, Aug 17 2008. 11 20 PM IST
Updated: Sun, Aug 17 2008. 11 20 PM IST
Islamabad: Pakistan’s ruling coalition tightened the screws on President Pervez Musharraf on Sunday, saying that it had made ready impeachment charges against him and was giving him two days to stand down.
Defence minister Ahmed Mukhtar said on Sunday that “the chargesheet will be presented in parliament by Tuesday”. Foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi had said a day earlier that Musharraf would have to decide on quitting “by today or tomorrow.”
The coalition finalized the charges after intense deliberations and would present them on Monday to the alliance’s leaders, Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, information minister Sherry Rehman said.
“It is a historic document,” Rehman told reporters. She said it would be submitted to parliament as part of an impeachment resolution “this week”, but did not elaborate.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, in a statement issued by his office, said the “time has come when the nation will decide its own destiny as the people voted for a change in the country in the February elections”.
A spokesman for Musharraf—who seized power from Sharif in a bloodless military coup in 1999 and went on to become a linchpin in the US-led “war on terror”—has repeatedly denied that the President is going to resign.
But attorney general Malik Qayyum, a close confidant of Musharraf, said the President would wait until the impeachment motion is filed before choosing a course of action.
“Whether he quits or counters the impeachment move will be decided after he sees the charges,” Qayyum said, adding that challenging impeachment in the Supreme Court remained an option. With Pakistan’s powerful army taking a neutral stance towards its former chief, the court is the only institution Musharraf can still count on, as he purged it of opponents during a state of emergency last November.
Musharraf’s other courses of action—either dissolving the national assembly or imposing emergency rule again—are fraught with risk.
Musharraf’s allies and coalition officials have said separately that his aides are in talks with the government in a bid to secure him indemnity from prosecution if he does throw in the towel.
Saudi Arabia, and reportedly the US and Britain, have sent envoys in a bid to resolve the crisis.
Meanwhile, US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice said granting asylum to Musharraf was not currently under her country’s consideration. “That’s not an issue on the table, and I just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan.”
No president has ever been impeached in Pakistan’s 61-year history.
The army’s stance is still unclear and analysts say it could react badly to seeing its former leader humiliated by impeachment. Musharraf quit as army chief in November under international pressure.
The coalition is counting on independent members of parliament and defectors from Musharraf’s camp to win the two-thirds combined majority it would need in the upper and lower houses of parliament to impeach him.
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First Published: Sun, Aug 17 2008. 11 20 PM IST