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Allies call on beleaguered Musharraf to quit PDF Print E-mail
Monday, 11 August 2008

ISLAMABAD, Sun Aug 10,(bdnews24.com/Reuters) - Pressure is mounting on Pakistan's beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf from his own allies to step down before the ruling coalition tries to impeach him this month, officials said on Sunday.

Pakistan has been in political turmoil since early last year. The United States and its allies fear a prolonged political and constitutional crisis will lead to instability in the nuclear-armed state and partner of Washington in its war on terror, and uncertainty has unsettled markets and investors.

The governing coalition led by the party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto decided on Thursday to move to impeach Musharraf, saying he plunged Pakistan into political and economic crises during nearly nine years of single-handed rule.

But even before the impeachment motion is moved in parliament, some of his own allies have called on him to resign and threatened to vote against him if he doesn't do so.

"I have advised the president to choose a dignified exit and resign to save the country from further polarization," Sardar Bahadur Khan Sihar, an MP from Musharraf's main ally the Pakistan Muslim League, Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q), told Reuters.

"If he did not quit, than it's obvious I will vote in favor of his impeachment."

A close ally of Musharraf said he was likely to resign before the impeachment motion was moved.

"I think there would be a settlement ... No impeachment in view of resignation," the ally told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

"I think he would resign because it's a stigma to be the first president who is impeached," Education Minister Ahsan Iqbal, an ally of Musharraf arch rival former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, told Reuters.

The options for the president shrunk further after the PML-Q said it could not support him if he tried to use constitutional powers to sack the government and dismiss parliament.

The ruling coalition is short the two-thirds majority required in the joint sitting of the two-chambered parliament to pass an impeachment motion, but coalition officials say several allies of the beleaguered president had assured their support.

ABANDONED BASE

Musharraf, who seized power as army chief in 1999, was weakened after he quit the powerful army, his main power base, in November, and effectively became politically isolated after his rivals swept elections in February by trouncing his allies.

Musharraf passed army command to General Ashfaq Kayani. Kayani has taken several steps to withdraw the army from civilian affairs and has not yet shown a tilt to any side on impeachment.

Bhutto's party emerged as the biggest elections winner, and formed a coalition with Sharif's party, which was second.

Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower and head of the coalition, was initially reluctant to impeach Musharraf and wanted a dignified exit for him. Sharif, toppled by Musharraf, wanted his usurper impeached and even tried for treason charges.

Zardari told a TV broadcaster in an interview due to be aired on Sunday he had suggested Musharraf resign two months back via a go-between but the president had been noncommittal.

Western countries worry political uncertainty will distract Pakistan from fighting al Qaeda, the Taliban and other Islamist factions whose influence has spread across the northwest of the Muslim country and who use Pakistan as a base for operations in Afghanistan.

Under Pakistan's constitution, the chairman of the Senate takes over as acting president in case of the death or resignation of a president, until a new one is elected.

While speculation of a Musharraf resignation grew, coalition officials said they were preparing an impeachment motion.

The government has called four provincial assemblies to meet next week to pass resolutions demanding Musharraf seek a vote of confidence from them, failing which the impeachment motion would be tabled against him in the National Assembly.

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