Pakistan's ruling coalition said on Friday it was comfortably placed in the parliament to win an impeachment vote against beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf, dpa reported.
"The impeachment requires 295 votes in the 442-member joint session of the both houses of the parliament - National Assembly and Senate. And we have 305 members, which clearly make up for two-third majority," Information Minister Sherry Rehman told Deutsche Presse-Agentur dpa.
She said she expected that the actual number of votes against Musharraf would go far beyond the required two-third majority.
Coalition leaders Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif, also an ex-premier, announced on Thursday that they would impeach Musharraf, blaming him for the economic crisis and severe power shortages the country is currently facing.
The president would first be asked by the country's four provincial assemblies to seek a vote of confidence from the presidential electoral college, comprising both houses of the parliament and four provincial assemblies.
If the president fails to get that vote, the coalition would start impeachment proceedings as early as Monday.
The move can deepen the political crisis in the country, which is already troubled by rising Islamic militancy in its tribal region bordering Afghanistan and the North West Frontier Province, with Musharraf still armed with the constitutional powers to dissolve parliament and impose emergency rule in the country.
But the information minister shrugged off the threat. "President's impeachment is a historic moment. I don't see any use of anti-democratic move."
She said Musharraf's trial would be "a smooth transition from dictatorship to real democracy."
A close aide to Musharraf, who is a senior leader from his Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), vowed to defend him.
"This (impeachment) is a democratic, political battle. He has right to defend himself, he has right to fight back. And we feel that he has a lot of support within the parliament," he said.
But he admitted that the president had made many mistakes. "Especially, it was the last year, 2007, which was a year of disaster."
In March 2007, Musharraf sacked the top judge Iftikhar Chaudhry, an independent-minded justice who had challenged the government on several sensitive issues. He was restored after countrywide protests in his support, but only to be re-sacked under an emergency order on November 3.
The move, highly unpopular among the public, lead to February 18 defeat of his political backers in the parliamentary elections. Once viewed as a strongman, Musharraf stands besieged now, political commentator Rasool Bux Raees said.
The United States, which has been relying heavily on him in its fight against Islamic extremists, on Thursday called Musharraf's impeachment a matter of Pakistan's "internal politics."
"Our expectation is that any action will be consistent with the rule of law and the Pakistani constitution," acting deputy spokesman of US State Department, Gonzalo R Gallegos, told reporters on Thursday.
"It is the responsibility of Pakistan's leaders to decide on a way forward to succeed as a moderate, modern, and democratic country," he said.