M A I N   N E W S

Friends, foes ask Mush to call it a day
He is ready to step down but will seek guarantee against criminal prosecution
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

With support for the impeachment motion dramatically gaining momentum beyond the actual strength of the ruling coalition, the National Assembly meets on Monday to fire the first salvo through a resolution asking President Gen Pervez Musharraf to seek a vote of confidence or face impeachment.

The ruling coalition has prepared a “comprehensive and solid” charge sheet to nail him with the ruling PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari accusing Musharraf of misappropriation of $700 million of anti-terrror aid provided by the US.

Musharraf's mainstay, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q (PML-Q) was in utter disarray on Sunday with MPs establishing contact with the coalition, assuring it of their vote for the impeachment resolution. Simultaneously, many have gone public urging the President to resign instead of plunging the country into another bout of uncertainty and instability.

A reliable source said the President had been told by the “quarters concerned” to take a decision by August 13. He had been asked not to issue the traditional statement on the eve of Independence Day on August 14. In the Army House, Musharraf’s abode and camp office that he has kept even after retirement from the army, there is a situation of near panic. A close aide confided to reporters that the President was prepared to step down but would seek guarantee against criminal prosecution just as US President Nixon had got from his successor President Ford.

“His fate is sealed,” a PML-N MP, Sardar Ayaz Sadiq said. Ayaz, who is close to Nawaz Sharif, said Musharraf had exhausted all options and had been deserted by his supporters, including the army.

There are strong voices in the country that are demanding Musharraf’s trial on criminal charges and not just removal through impeachment.

A top leader of the lawyers’ movement, Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, said Musharraf would be prosecuted on the charge of not only illegally dismissing 60 judges, but also putting most of them along with their children under house arrest without any legal order.

The ex-servicemen’s society that represents retired chiefs of the army and other services besides generals and senior military officials, at a meeting on Sunday said Musharraf must be tried and punished for several serious crimes he had committed during his rule, including murder, terrorism and kidnapping. A presidential aide was quoted by friends saying that Musharraf wanted to stay in Pakistan after resigning and live in the farmhouse he had purchased in suburban Islamabad.

But he wants the government and the army to ensure his security. That would be a horrendous task considering the many aggrieved sections which would be seeking avenge.

In Lahore, the central committee of the PML-Q urged Musharraf to fight the motion and assured him support. PML-Q secretary-general Mushahid Hussain Sayed said the President had told the party he would not give up without fighting.

He said MQM chief Altaf Hussain had also talked to the committee members on the phone and assured support in efforts to defeat the impeachment move.



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