Pakistani parliament meets to impeach Musharraf

Other News Materials 11 August 2008 13:03 (UTC +04:00)

Pakistan's governing coalition was set Monday to initiate impeachment proceedings against President Pervez Musharraf after he defied calls overnight to resign in the face of "an unarguable trial."

The National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, convened at 5 pm (1100 GMT). It is expected see a tirade of accusations against the retired army general, but a formal battle will start only once a charge sheet is tabled later in the week, dpa reported.

The coalition's leaders were yet to finalize the parliamentary motion that would hold the embattled leader accountable for alleged misconduct and repetitive violation of the constitution.

"This is a battle between dictatorship and democracy," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said on Sunday.

Presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi asserted that Musharraf had "no intentions of resigning" and "he will face the impeachment motion with a democratic spirit."

In the meantime, Musharraf's foes plan to increase pressure through the provincial assemblies which will consecutively adopt resolutions asking the president to seek a confidence vote or face impeachment.

Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and chief of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif last week announced to impeach the president for "weakening the federation" and impeding transition to a democratic rule in the country.

The coalition partners need a two-thirds majority in a joint session of the National Assembly and the Senate to impeach Musharraf, however, confusion prevails over the number of votes in favour of Pakistan's first-ever presidential trial.

Musharraf, who came to power in 1999 after ousting Sharif in a bloodless coup, enjoyed a largely unchallenged rule for more than seven years, but was caught in a political and judicial whirlpool last year when he proclaimed emergency rule and sacked dozens of senior judges, including chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The beleaguered leader has almost run out of options and is believed to now have only three choices - resign, defend impeachment or dismiss the government by dissolving parliament, which is possible only with the backing of the army, a step likely to backfire.

Musharraf's primary power base, the military, seems reluctant to outright support him because of the charged public sentiment against such action. The US has also adopted a cautious approach, terming the whole episode an internal issue of Pakistan.