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.
(Page 2 of 2)
Those hopes appear to have been in vain. Musharraf and Mr. Zardari have failed to forge an effective government, and an Islamic insurgency in the country's northwest has gained new momentum. On Sunday, gunmen killed eight policemen in the Swat Valley, which has been the scene of fighting between the security forces and Talaban fighters. At least 100 casualties have been reported in the past week.Skip to next paragraph
Subscribe Today to the Monitor
A recent attempt to subject Pakistan's powerful Inter Service Intelligence agency – which is alleged to include Taliban sympathizers – to civilian authority has failed.
Musharraf vs. a divided coalition
While Zardari and Sharif have agreed to impeach Musharraf, their relationship is famously fractious. In May, members of Sharif's party withdrew from the cabinet after the PPP refused to restore the judges sacked by Musharraf. Last Friday, Sharif said some of them would rejoin the cabinet.
Talat Hussain, a political commentator and prominent Pakistani journalist, says that impeaching the government would be an achievement for this government; and the first such instance in Pakistani history. "The government has not done well in the first four months," he says. "To remove Musharraf would make it look as if they are doing something. It would be a huge political plus, but that … doesn't replace good governance."
If impeachment proceedings go ahead, they could take time. The nature of the procedure laid down in Pakistan's 1973 constitution means that the country may be in for a painful, long-drawn-out wrangle.
Impeachment requires a two-thirds majority in both houses of parliament. After Monday's session, it would take at least a week, say analysts, to formally approve the start of proceedings, before both houses are called for a jury-like joint sitting to hear charges against Musharraf.
The Constitution does not set a timeline for passing a resolution, which means it could take weeks. The coalition would require the support of about 295 parliamentarians to get the impeachment motion passed from 442 seats in both houses; its existing strength is 277.
On Sunday evening, Musharraf's prospects were looking increasingly bleak, with some members of his main ally, the PML-Q urging him to quit.
Will the Army step in?
Political pundits, meanwhile, are keeping a close watch on the Army, which has traditionally played a decisive role in Pakistani politics. The nation has yo-yoed between military and civilian rule since its inception.
Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who succeeded Musharraf as chief of Army staff, has said he intends to keep the Army away from politics. But the decision to impeach Musharraf could test his resolve.
Ordinary Pakistanis, meanwhile, say they are tired of political wrangling and want action from their government. In particular, they are affected by the dismal state of Pakistan's economy. The stock market in Karachi has lost 35 percent of its value since the spring, and inflation is running at 25 percent.
In an Islamabad bazaar, Nawaz Haq, a storekeeper, holds up a loaf of bread costing 40 rupees. "Only recently it cost 20," he says. "But Pakistan has so many problems and the government does nothing to solve them."