Musharraf resigns as Pakistan's president
The unpopular leader announced Monday he would step down, avoiding the drive to impeach him.
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation Monday, ending a nearly nine-year tenure that opponents said was hampering the country's shaky return to democracy.Skip to next paragraph
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An emotional Mr. Musharraf said he wanted to spare Pakistan from a dangerous power struggle with opponents vowing to impeach him. He said he was satisfied that all he had done "was for the people and for the country."
"I hope the nation and the people will forgive my mistakes," Musharraf said in a televised address, much of which was devoted to defending his record.
His political exit robs the West of a stalwart ally who echoed its concern about how Islamic militancy is destabilizing Afghanistan and Pakistan, where Al Qaeda and the Taliban have regained strength. However, his influence has faded since he stepped down as Army chief last year.
Pakistan's stock market and currency both rose strongly on hopes that the country was bound for political stability.
In his hour-long address, Musharraf said he would turn in his resignation to the National Assembly speaker Monday. It was not immediately clear whether it would take effect the same day. Mohammedmian Soomro, the chairman of the upper house of parliament, was poised to take over in the interim.
It remains an open question whom parliament will elect to succeed Musharraf, partly because the ruling coalition has vowed to strip the presidency of much of its power.
It was also unclear whether Musharraf would stay in Pakistan or go into exile.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said leaders of the ruling coalition would discuss later Monday whether to prosecute Musharraf in court on the impeachment charges.
Hugs and celebration
Briefly, his political foes put those issues on the back burner and got on with celebrating.
"It is a victory of democratic forces," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said. "Today, the shadow of dictatorship that has prevailed for long over this country, that chapter has been closed."
Television footage showed groups of people celebrating in the streets in several towns across Pakistan, some of them firing automatic weapons into the sky.
"It is very pleasing to know that Musharraf is no more," said Mohammed Saeed, a shopkeeper among a crowd of people jigging to drum beats and hugging each other at an intersection in the northwestern city of Peshawar.
"He even tried to deceive the nation in his last address. He was boasting about economic progress when life for people like us has become a hell," he said, because of economic problems that include runaway inflation.
Blame for nation's problems
Musharraf dominated Pakistan after seizing power from Mr. Sharif's government in a 1999 military coup, making the country a key strategic ally of the US by supporting the war on terror. But his popularity at home sank over the years.
Many Pakistanis blame the rising militant violence in their country on Musharraf's use of the Army against militants nested in the northwest. His reputation suffered fatal blows in 2007 when he ousted dozens of judges and imposed emergency rule. His rivals won February parliamentary elections and have since sought his ouster.