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Pakistan's Musharraf refuses to quit, as opponents eye impeachment

Political activists and lawyers launched a cross-country march Monday to press for the reinstatement of independent judges fired by Musharraf.

By / June 9, 2008

Pressure is growing on Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to resign as his opponents in parliament sharpen their attack. The ongoing political tussle seems likely to distract from counterterrorism operations, backed by the Bush administration, at a time of simmering tensions.

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Last week, in an attack claimed by Al Qaeda, a car bomb detonated outside the Danish Embassy in Islamabad, killing several people. Authorities said they later thwarted a separate terrorist attack when they seized three cars in nearby Rawalpindi loaded with explosives. Militants are suspected in a Monday attack that killed four policemen in Peshawar, capital of the volatile North West Frontier Province.

Thousands of lawyers and others opposed to Mr. Musharraf, who sought to remove the country's chief justice last year, rallied Monday in Karachi to begin a staggered protest march that is due to end Thursday in Islamabad. Agence France-Presse reports that civil rights activists joined supporters of secular and religious parties in the march led by black-suited lawyers who chanted "Go Musharraf, Go!"

Xinhua reports that the president of the Supreme Court Bar Association said the march, which will go to several cities, was to raise awareness about the need to reinstate independent judges. Aitzaz Ahsan said the march would be "completely peaceful" and that lawyers would not "storm any buildings or damage any property."

On Sunday, the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), a government coalition party, presented a 10-point "charge sheet" with which to impeach Musharraf if he refuses to step down, reports the Dawn newspaper. The charges include specific allegations of gross mismanagement, human rights abuses, curtailing democracy, and corruption. The PML-N, led by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf overthrew in a 1999 coup, accuses the president of pushing the Army "into an undeclared war against its own people." Party officials say they have evidence to back their charges that would be presented in parliament in any impeachment hearing.

A day earlier, Musharraf called a rare news conference to quell rumors that he was to quit as part of a negotiated political deal with the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), the largest in parliament. "I will not resign in the present situation. I will live and die here," he said in televised comments, reports The Wall Street Journal. He also warned that the country was being destabilized by the politicking over his presidency.

His defiance was seen as a provocation to the PPP to try to impeach him if it could.
The PPP responded with strengthened rhetoric of its own. "Mr. Musharraf has no other option but to quit," a party spokesman said following the president's remarks.
Asif Ali Zardari, Ms. Bhutto's widower and chairman of the PPP, said at a news conference in Saudi Arabia on Saturday that the Parliament could move against the president and seek to oust him.