ISLAMABAD: Back-channel negotiations were on between Pakistan’s ruling coalition and Pervez Musharraf yesterday over modalities of a graceful exit for the president from the country’s political scene, officials said. Musharraf’s media adviser, retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, however dismissed it, saying: “The president has no plans to quit. He will face the impeachment motion if and when it is presented before Parliament by the PPP-led coalition government.”
An aide of Pakistan People’s Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who did not want to be identified: “He is ready to resign but wants exemption from legal responsibility for the Nov. 3 action.” Other government sources said Musharraf had agreed to quit but with the condition that he would not be charged with any crime and would be given full immunity.
Tariq Azeem, a senior leader in Musharraf’s political ally — Pakistan Muslim League (Quaid) — and former deputy information minister, said: “Some friends of the president are talking to the PPP to win certain guarantees which can convince him to resign and amicably end the confrontation.” Azeem said the impeachment process had created political uncertainty, which was harmful for the country. “Foreign investors are moving out and business activity is slowing down. This situation must end,” he added.
The country’s ruling coalition, which is led by the PPP, last week announced a parliamentary trial of Musharraf for “misconduct” and “violation of the constitution.” The process gained momentum this week when local assemblies in all the four provinces voted against him, with the Balochistan Assembly yesterday recommending to Parliament to begin impeachment proceedings if Musharraf refused to either get a fresh vote from the presidential electoral college, or resign. In the 65-member house, 57 lawmakers voted in favor of the resolution, while eight absented. Speakers who took part in the debate said Musharraf was guilty of violating the constitution twice, creating economic and power crises and was responsible for pitting one province against another.
They also held Musharraf responsible for the killing of Nawab Akber Bugti and other Baloch activists.
Formal impeachment proceedings are expected to begin next week when the coalition plans to table a charge sheet against Musharraf in Parliament, where a two-thirds majority in a joint session would be required to oust him.
A PPP official also confirmed that negotiations were under way with the president through his aides, hoping these would conclude within the next few days. “I think he will step down before we move the impeachment motion in the National Assembly next week,” said the official who spoke on condition of anonymity.
Separately, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said: “We have finalized a charge sheet against Musharraf and we hope to table it before Parliament within one week.” She said the charge sheet was prepared by a joint team of the PPP and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (N).