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Musharraf Opponents Methodically Plot Ouster

  • Barry Newhouse

Opponents of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf are continuing to plot a strategy to unseat the unpopular leader that they say will unfold in the coming weeks. Following last week's impeachment threat from the country's ruling parties, lawmakers are preparing a series of legislative actions aimed at publicly undermining the president. VOA's Barry Newhouse reports from the Pakistani capital.

Leaders of Pakistan's two major political parties, the Pakistan People's Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N party say they are working on a so-called "charge sheet" outlining a series of impeachable offenses allegedly committed by the president during his nearly nine years as leader of Pakistan.

But before beginning formal impeachment proceedings, Pakistan People's Party spokeswoman Sherry Rehman says the country's four provincial assemblies will pass measures calling for the president to take a vote of confidence.

"We are giving space and time to the provinces first. The provincial assemblies are moving their own resolutions, we must give them that time, they must occupy that space today," said Rehman.

There is no constitutional measure requiring Mr. Musharraf to take a vote of confidence from the provincial assemblies and parliament, which would almost certainly oppose him with substantial majorities. But analysts say publicly demanding the president take such a vote would further undermine his already weakened political power and strengthen the impeachment movement in Pakistan's parliament.

Pakistan Muslim League-N party spokesman Siddiq-ul Farooq says party leaders ultimately hope the building confrontation will not lead to impeachment.

"Actually the leadership wants that instead of being impeached by the parliament, if he himself resigns then that will be comparatively advisable for him," he said.

Mr. Musharraf has proven himself to be a savvy political survivor during his long tenure as ruler and has rarely backed away from political confrontations. But with Pakistan's military giving no indication that it will intervene in the political standoff, and the president's own political party severely weakened in February polls, analysts say the president has few options.

Political commentator Nasim Zahra says resignation may be preferable to facing public impeachment proceedings that are likely to cover a long list of allegations during Mr. Musharraf's tenure. She said Mr. Musharraf may not want to drag the country through what she called a "messy affair."

"Impeachment can be long and drawn out - it can lead to confrontations within the political arena that I do not think Pakistan can afford. I think that it can also raise issues that are best not discussed in the political arena - I think it would be very hard to have a smooth process of impeachment," said Zahra.

Impeaching President Musharraf would require 295 of the 442 seats in a joint session of Pakistan's parliament. The president's political opponents boasted Monday they have more than 340 lawmakers pledging to vote for the measure.

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