Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Impeaching General Musharraf [1999-2008] - 3

Faiz wrote:

Dear Wasti Sahib,

People talk about Musharraf being hated by Pakistanis; I ask, has anyone anywhere heard untimely AZAANS being called out for Musharraf to go?

Dear Irfan Sahab,

For your kind perusal. See the picture.

Exit Musharraf? Pakistan's president will resign and leave the country, according to NEWSWEEK sources. Time to Go? A recent poll says 75 percent of Pakistanis have no confidence in Musharraf By Fasih Ahmed and Ron Moreau Newsweek Web Exclusive Aug 17, 2008 Updated: 1:20 p.m. ET Aug 17, 2008

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is expected to resign Monday and fly into exile in Saudi Arabia, where he is to remain for the next three months, a former aide to the president has told NEWSWEEK on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The aide added that the news had been relayed to the nation's top military brass, including its powerful corps commanders. Though a current aide to Musharraf confirms that the president will resign, officially, Musharraf's camp denies the story. "Your source is a liar," retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, a presidential spokesman, told NEWSWEEK when asked about the president's resignation and possible flight into exile. "The information you have is absolutely untrue."

The 65-year-old Musharraf, who has ruled the country of 170 million with an authoritarian hand for nearly nine years, may be seeking to avoid a humiliating impeachment trial before a largely hostile parliament and to protect himself from possible criminal prosecution. Still, the exit of Washington's one-time point man in the war on terror is unlikely to solve Pakistan's myriad ills, including economic and political instability, government paralysis and an increasingly aggressive Islamic insurgency along the frontier with Afghanistan. It could even add to Pakistan's volatility, as the president's main nemeses and ruling coalition partners, Pakistani People's Party co-chairmen Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, begin to jockey for position to fill a power vacuum created by Musharraf's departure.

Though his resignation had been expected for days, a move to flee the country is a surprise since Musharraf and his chief allies have said he would fight impeachment and remain in Pakistan. At a gathering at the presidential palace in Islamabad on Wednesday, the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day, the president may have foreshadowed his decision in a speech to his guests. He tried to put the best face on his worsening predicament, calling for reconciliation among the country's political forces as the only way that Pakistan could face its many challenges. But according to NEWSWEEK sources, in private conversations that night Musharraf agreed with several close friends that his resignation was his only viable option, and that fighting impeachment proceedings in parliament would only deepen and prolong the country's political agony.

One sticking point has been Sharif's insistence that following impeachment the president should be tried for treason, just as Sharif was soon after he was deposed by Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999. Sharif was convicted in 2000 and given two life sentences. The Saudis intervened, allowing him to go into exile in the kingdom.

To avoid impeachment on charges of gross misconduct while in office and of violating the constitution on at least two occasions—first when he launched the 1999 coup and again when he imposed a state of emergency last November—and to avoid possible criminal proceedings, Musharraf is apparently trying to use his resignation as a tool to negotiate a soft landing. Ever since Zardari and Sharif decided to pursue impeachment proceedings against him earlier this month, the president's men have been wrangling with the coalition, the army and diplomats from the United States, the United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia for his safe passage out of power and perhaps out of the country. Last week Saudi intelligence chief Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz arrived in Pakistan to ensure an "amicable resolution" to the crisis, as he put it. In return for his stepping down before impeachment proceedings began, NEWSWEEK sources say Musharraf asked for guarantees for his personal safety, for immunity from prosecution and that he be treated with the respect due a former president.

Over the past few months, Musharraf's position has become increasingly precarious. One-time key supporters in both in politics and the military have begun to desert him. In a foreshadowing of what he would face in parliament, all four provincial assemblies overwhelmingly passed no-confidence motions against him over the past few days.

Perhaps the unkindest cut was when Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the army chief of staff whom Musharraf had handpicked as his successor last November, told him one week ago that the military would not back any presidential move to dissolve parliament, a power that he potentially wields, and that resignation would be the most prudent course, according to one of the aides NEWSWEEK spoke with. The aide says Kayani also told Musharraf that after his resignation, his personal protection would be the responsibility of the civilian government, not the military (not a very reassuring prospect), and that a period of exile would perhaps be the best choice. Musharraf was said to be personally devastated by Kayani's less-than reassuring-stance. "The army is not neutral in this," says the aide. However, he adds that Kayani did reassure Musharraf that as a former president and army head the military would not allow him to be dishonored.

Kayani and the military were never in favor of Musharraf, the former army commando, fighting his political enemies to the bitter end in impeachment proceedings, according to NEWSWEEK sources. The military feared that it too could be further sullied by the charges against Musharraf in a parliamentary impeachment proceeding. After all, it had stood by the president and actively assisted him in carrying out policies that are now under fire, such as the 1999 coup and the emergency declaration last year that included the firing of 60 senior judges, including the popular and pugnacious chief justice, Iftikar Mohammad Chaudhry.

Musharraf lost most of his powers after his resignation as army chief last year and the general elections last February that saw his political allies soundly defeated. Most Pakistanis saw the vote as a referendum on the president and his policies. In a recent poll by the International Republican Institute, some 75 percent of Pakistanis said they had no confidence in the president and preferred that he would resign. Since then, he has been ignored by Zardari's and Sharif's ruling coalition, which is nominally headed by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani. Still, Musharraf's exodus will leave a power vacuum of sorts at the top, one that Zardari and Sharif may jockey to fill.

If Musharraf does go, the presidency is up for grabs. Zardari is rumored to be keen on filling the post. Sharif may have other ideas, and may be loath to see Zardari elevated to a potentially even more powerful position. But a fight over who will replace Musharraf in the presidential palace would only further distract the country from dealing with its other pressing crises: 25 percent inflation, power shortages, an eroding currency, capital flight, a lack of foreign investment and an increasingly aggressive Islamic insurgency on its western border.

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