By Dr. Abdul Ruff Colachal
As the show-down in the parliament on 11 August is around, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who has been meeting legal advisers to plan his next moves, said he is sure that government’s move to impeach him or force him to quit would fail. Supporters of Musharraf, including the former ruling PML-Q party, have vowed to oppose moves to impeach him in parliament. PML-Q says it is confident it can deny the governing coalition the two-thirds majority it needs in both houses of parliament.
Ruling parties say Musharraf is incompetent and standing in the way of democracy, while the president had expressed his dissatisfaction over the economic progress of the country and policies of the ruling dispensation. He has yet to respond to the allegation about his incompetence. The president has apparently been exploring both his legal options and his chances to manipulate members of parliament, where the numbers appear to be loaded against him. Meanwhile, the US says it is an internal matter for Pakistan.
To observers in Pakistan, Musharraf might appear to be a worried man, as indicated by his decision to put off a visit to the Olympic Games opening ceremony in Beijing twice in as many days, but, however, he is as busy as ever with his official responsibilities and is least disturbed about the development and his present position, but it could be that he is weighing the fallout of the impeachment move. The media in Pakistan are quoting sources close to the president as saying he, if necessary, will contest the charges in parliament.
Musharraf was elected president for a five-year term last October in a controversial parliamentary vote. He is still thought to have heavy influence over the military and its reaction will remain crucial. The president retains the power to dissolve parliament, but most analysts believe he is unlikely to do this. An impeachment would take Pakistani politics into new territory, since no Pakistani leader has faced it before. Coalition leaders insist they have the numbers in parliament. Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and gave up control of the army last year. His allies were routed in elections in February.
Generally, Musharraf himself has been keeping a low profile, but PML-Q leaders have not. Mushahid Hussain, general secretary of the PML-Q, said: “I personally oppose the president’s power to sack the parliament and the government and believe it should be scrapped, but I also oppose the president’s impeachment.” Another party leader, Chaudhry Pervez Elahi, said the ruling alliance had “made a hasty decision and they will be trapped in their own game”. Tariq Azim, who served as information minister under Musharraf, called the impeachment move a “sure recipe for disaster”. “We are going to oppose it. It is a half-baked effort”.
Pakistan‘s governing alliance leaders Asif Ali Zardari of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif of PML-N addressed a packed news conference in Islamabad. Both Sharif and Zardari have vowed to try to restore judges sacked under emergency rule. “The coalition believes it is imperative to move for impeachment against Gen Musharraf,” said Zardari, the widower of assassinated former PM Benazir Bhutto. PML-N leader Sharif said: “Pakistan cannot afford to see democracy derailed.” The leaders also promised to restore judges sacked under Musharraf’s emergency rule last November once impeachment was successful. How to proceed on that issue has caused deep divisions between the two coalition parties since they swept elections in February.
Although people in general are concerned now about price rise and food shortage and not at all worried about the restoration of judges and removal of Musharraf, Sharif, who wants to take revenge on Musharraf for sacking him in 1999, has taken it as a prestige issue. Zardari is keen to take the ruling coalition including the PMLN on board and hence he also supports Sharif’s agenda. However, Zardari is not for ousting Musharraf.