Pakistani leaders propose reconciliation for cross purposes

Other News Materials 14 August 2008 14:42 (UTC +04:00)

Pakistani Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani on Thursday said "confrontationalism" of the past had done much damage to the nation but now the democratic forces have united to block dictatorship and adventurism, dpa reported.

Gilani's remarks came hours after President Pervez Musharraf called for shunning "a confrontational approach," as the ruling coalition expedited its efforts to impeach the embattled leader, if he did not resign.

"The era of repression is over. Dictatorship is a thing of the past," Gilani said in an apparently direct message to Musharraf, who seized power eight years ago in a bloodless military coup.

Both dignitaries made their comments in separate state functions held to mark Pakistan's 61st Independence Day on Thursday.

In his first public statement since the coalition kicked off an impeachment campaign last week, Musharraf said the country needed political stability that could only be achieved by adopting a conciliatory approach.

Musharraf, who stepped down as the army chief last November, said "our adversaries" wanted to weaken Pakistan and "conspiring" might even be going on against the state institutions.

"We have to stand up as a nation," he asserted.

However, the two leaders agreed that the only nuclear-armed Islamic republic was passing through "the most difficult period of its history," with grave challenges from extremism and economic impasse.

According to Gilani, the war against terrorism was, in fact, Pakistan's "own fight for survival."

Musharraf said terrorism and extremism could only be defeated when all the people stood by the armed forces with a sense of oneness.

"A nation draws its strength from its military and its economic might," he told a select audience at a cultural programme that started late Wednesday night and continued through Thursday. The event was boycotted by Gilani and his team.

The beleaguered president has been pushed to the wall by the governing coalition that was formed after Musharraf's political supporters were trounced in an election by the parties of former prime ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.

Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower and the incumbent chief of her Pakistan People's Party (PPP), and Sharif last week announced that Musharraf would be impeached over charges of repetitive violation of the constitution and gross misconduct.

Though a formal impeachment motion is yet to be filed in the lower house of the bicameral parliament, three of four provincial assemblies already passed resolutions against the ex-commando with recommendations for his impeachment.

The fourth assembly in the south-western province of Balochistan is set to follow suit later this week.

Once an impeachment motion is tabled, Musharraf's opponents will need at least 295 votes to try the president. The parliament has 440 sitting members, but confusion prevails over the number of lawmakers who will vote in favour of the impeachment.

Despite the fact that the tide has turned for the coalition, Musharraf, through his spokesman, has said that he would not resign and would rather face impeachment.

However, a news report said Thursday that Musharraf had agreed to quit, but the move would come when he got a fail-safe guarantee of indemnity and entitlement to live in his spacious farmhouse on the periphery of Islamabad with full security and privileges allowed to former presidents.

"The army high command is standing by President Musharraf in these two demands," the English-language newspaper Daily Times reported while citing "informed sources."