Musharraf plans easy retirement as new government struggles

Other News Materials 20 August 2008 19:28 (UTC +04:00)

Pervez Musharraf wants to relax by writing, practicing sports and spending more time with his family after his resignation as president of Pakistan, a close aide said Wednesday, dpa reported.

"He wants to relax, write books, do sports and give more time to his family that has been ignored over the years when he was heading the military and then the country," Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, leader of Musharraf's Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) in the lower house of parliament, said.

He met the former president at his residence in the garrison city of Rawalpindi together with 40 members from his party.

Another member of the parliament from PML-Q, Marvi Memon, said Musharraf did not have any immediate plans to join politics but his party would consult him.

"Mr Pervez Musharraf made it clear that he would not leave the country. He is definitely going to stay here," she added. "He will not have any direct role in the party but we will continue benefit from his experience."

Musharraf stepped down on Monday from his post to avoid impeachment in parliament by the new civilian government.

The ruling coalition is now struggling to iron out differences on multiple issues, including the election of the next president and the reinstatement of judges sacked by the retired general.

Asif Ali Zardari from the leading Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif from Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), are deeply split on the policy forward and are wrestling for the upper hand.

Sharif demanded an immediate reinstatement of more than 60 judges purged by Musharraf on November 3 when he declared emergency and suspended the constitution of the country. Zardari is reluctant, arguing it should be brought about through a constitutional package.

Zardari and Sharif are also fighting for control of the presidency, which would consolidate the grip of the party that succeeds in having its candidate anointed.

The second-largest opposition party, Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), on Wednesday proposed Zaradri, the widower of slain Benazir Bhutto, as the candidate for next president, a move that could strengthen the position of PPP chief as he negotiates with PML-N.

"The way Mr Zardari handled the issue of president's resignation with wisdom is really admirable," said MQM chief Altaf Hussain, in a statement from his office in London, where he lives in self-imposed exile.

MQM is the biggest ethnic entity in southern Sindh province, holding strategically important 25 seats in the lower house or National Assembly, which can play a winning card for Zardari.

The MQM, which supported Musharraf during his nine-year rule, also has 51 seats in the provincial Sindh assembly and six seats in the upper house of senate.

With Zardari's name nominated by the politically influential MQM, the rifts between the coalition partners could widen, analysts said.

"The MQM has played a vital wild card today by announcing the name of Zardari so early in the game," said political analyst Rasul Bakhsh Rais, professor at Lahore University of Management Sciences.

Both MQM and PML-N are bitter rivals in federal and provincial levels. On several occasions the PML-N accused the MQM of killing its members.

The fault lines showing in the ruling coalition sank Pakistani stocks on Wednesday by 3.6 per cent, as investors anticipated a new period of political uncertainty.

"We thought Musharraf's resignation will bring stability and calm but it looks like the turf battle between the coalition partners will set towards another era of instability," said Aqeel Karim Dhedhi, the chairman of AKD Securities.