Pressure builds on Pakistan's Musharraf
The ruling coalition has vowed to move forward with an impeachment process against the president. Even some of the unpopular leader's allies are urging him to quit.
Pakistan's government has vowed to start impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf Monday, sparking concerns that a protracted constitutional crisis could distract Pakistan's four-month-old government from urgent matters, including a mounting pro-Taliban insurgency and a tumbling economy.Skip to next paragraph
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A session of the National Assembly, Pakistan's lower house of parliament, has been scheduled Monday to initiate proceedings against Mr. Musharraf, the long unpopular president whose power has diminished since the new government took over.
Many here hope that the president will resign. Yet even if Musharraf does step down, political debate for the coming weeks will be dominated by the question of who will take his place. "They will have to elect a new president – and a new squabble will begin," says Najam Sethi, editor in chief of the Lahore-based Friday Times newspaper.
The case for impeachment
Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, resigned as Army chief in November after being reelected to serve a five-year term as president.
Yet the head of state has been increasingly sidelined since general elections last February, which were won by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), formerly led by two-time Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in December. Lacking a majority, it formed a coalition government with former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's PML-N party, and others.
On Thursday, the coalition's leaders – Asif Ali Zardari, widower of Ms. Bhutto, and Mr. Sharif – announced they would seek to remove Musharraf.
The grounds for his impeachment, they said, include mismanagement of the economy, the imposition in November of emergency rule for six weeks, and the firing, during that period, of nearly 60 judges.
As president, Musharraf has the power to dissolve parliament, and thereby avoid impeachment. Indeed, it is partly a desire to strip back presidential powers such as these that prompted the government to start impeachment proceedings.
But few believe that the president will choose such a course. To do so would prompt new elections, in which his political allies in parliament are likely to fare badly.
Meanwhile, militant battles grow
The United States, which had considered Musharraf a key ally in its fight against terror, has remained largely silent on the question of his impeachment, calling it an "internal" issue.
The US had backed a power-sharing deal between Musharraf and the Bhutto-led PPP in the hope that this would result in a strong, secular government that would fight terrorism efficiently.