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Posts Tagged ‘Impeachment’

On Monday, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation from office. According to the Associated Press, “An emotional Musharraf said he wanted to spare the nation from a perilous impeachment battle and that he was satisfied that all he had done ‘was for the people and for the country.’” During his live televised address, he asserted, “I hope the nation and the people will forgive my mistakes.” In his speech, the BBC reported that Musharraf also said “he was confident the charges against him would not stand, but this was not the time for more confrontation.” According to the BBC’s Chris Morris, “Mr. Musharraf’s resignation marks the end of an era for a country facing enormous economic and security challenges.”

Following the shocking announcement Monday, the AFP cited statements by Benazir Bhutto‘s son and co-chairman of the PPP, 19 year old Bilawal Bhutto, who noted, “After the martyrdom of my mother I said that democracy was the best revenge — and today it was proved true.” He told Geo Television, “Someone from the Pakistan People’s Party would be the next president of Pakistan but I don’t know who that would be.” Bilawal’s father and the effective leader of the PPP, Asif Ali Zardari, is of course rumored to be vying for the now-coveted presidency spot.

The AP noted in its coverage that television footage “showed groups of people celebrating in the streets in several towns across Pakistan, some of them firing automatic weapons into the sky.” The news agency added, “Musharraf said he will turn in his resignation to the National Assembly speaker on Monday but it was not immediately clear whether it would become effective the same day. The chairman of Pakistan’s Senate, Mian Mohammed Soomro, was poised to take over in the interim.” Pakistan’s foreign minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said leaders of the ruling coalition would discuss later today whether to prosecute Musharraf in court on charges that that were being planned for the impeachment process, or allow for his safe exit from office.

So, in the aftermath of what many are calling a “shocking” decision, how do you feel about Musharraf’s resignation? How did you react to the news? Finally, what do you think is in store for the country next?

[To read CHUP's recent coverage of the impeachment speculation, click here.]

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On Friday, talk of Musharraf’s impending impeachment/resignation continued to dominate media coverage of Pakistan. This morning, [EST], the AFP reported that the Pakistani president’s aides “are in talks with the government to secure a deal under which he could quit to avoid facing impeachment or criminal charges.” Although Musharraf’s spokesman Rashid Qureshi condemned what he called “malicious” Western media reports that he would stand down, “allies and officials from the ruling coalition both indicated that he was considering his resignation,” reported the AFP. Key ally and former deputy information minister Tariq Azim told the news agency, “Talks are underway and many people are interested that the issue is settled amicably without going into the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf.”

According to the Associated Press coverage today,

Musharraf’s spokesman said reports the former army chief’s resignation was imminent were “baseless” but it was clear he has little support. The last of Pakistan‘s four provincial assemblies passed a resolution against him and a key ally acknowledged the president lacks the support to survive a vote in parliament.

The political uncertainty adds to an already volatile environment in Pakistan, the news agency reported. Officials said Friday that 10 days of fighting in a tribal region near the Afghan border have killed hundreds and displaced more than 200,000. The AP emphasized, “It was one of the bloodiest episodes since Pakistan deployed troops along the border in support of the war on terror nearly seven years ago.”

Although coalition officials claim they could present the impeachment motion within a week and the process could subsequently be over by the end of the month, “officials in the president’s office say impeachment could drag on for months because the procedure is not laid out in the constitution.” Musharraf, it should be noted, would be the first Pakistani president to be impeached in the country’s 61-year history. However, added the AP, “Much depends on whether Musharraf decides to fight, and whether his rivals can stomach granting him immunity and the freedom to stay in Pakistan if he quits.”

Despite indications from members of the PML-Q (including Azim, as well as the party’s secretary-general Mushahid Hussain) that the president may resign, an article in the International Herald Tribune today cited Dawn TV’s interview with the party’s chairman Chaudhry Shujaat, who said Musharraf told him in a meeting Friday that he would deal with the charges “in a democratic spirit and in accordance with the Constitution.” Shujaat added, “Let them bring the charges…So far they haven’t brought any charges.”

However, both politicians and Western diplomats “said Friday that they doubted Musharraf could prevail, and they predicted he would step down before impeachment proceedings began.” The IHT added, “They termed the statements by Shujaat as a bravura performance and a last stand.” Several media sources also cited reports that said the army did not want impeachment to go ahead “because charges against Musharraf, a former army chief, would reflect badly on the military.”

The rumor mill, it seems, keeps puttering away on the “will-he-won’t-he” question. However, all sides seem to understand that a drawn-out impeachment process will only further cripple Pakistan, a country already facing an insurmountable number of issues. Therefore, what seems to be at work here is the well-known game theory model, known as Chicken (similar to the prisoners’ dilemma). The principle of the game is as follows: while each player prefers not to yield to the other, the outcome where neither player yields is the worst possible option for both players. In other words, if two cars are driving towards one other at full speed (i.e. “chicken”), Driver A or Driver B must eventually swerve their car or both will die in the collision. However, if Driver A swerves their car before Driver B, they risk being called “chicken,” or a “coward.”

Applied to this context, it seems that neither the coalition government nor Musharraf are prepared to cave first. However, if both parties continue to remain on this path, and the impeachment process continues with Musharraf holding on, we may see further negative ramifications for Pakistan’s volatile environment. The solution? Both sides must reach a conclusion that lets Musharraf have a safe and dignified exit from power and allows for the coalition government to finally tackle the issues that are really important to Pakistan. [Image from AP]

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On Tuesday, the Associated Press reported the provincial assembly of the Northwest Frontier Province (NWFP) also passed a resolution calling for the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf. The 107-4 vote comes just a day after the Punjab Assembly passed a similar resolution, [see yesterday's post].

A Reuters piece also reported that the “embattled” President “lost the support of some allies” today, “with provincial legislatures dominated by his opponents increasing pressure on him to step down before a bid to impeach him.” Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters, “The tidal wave is sweeping the country. Even his own former allies are now voting against him.” Reuters quoted Aftab Ahmed Sherpao, a leader of a small political party that backed Musharraf for years [PPP-Sherpao], who said, “This is no time for confrontation and we want to strengthen the democratic process. That’s why we have decided to support the impeachment motion.”

Despite these reports, the President is still holding on to his office. An article in today’s Dawn noted that Musharraf reportedly told his loyalists “that he has ‘sufficient official records’ to expose failures of the four-month-old coalition government.” Several PML-Q members [the oft-labeled "pro-Musharraf" party], including party president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussein, former Punjab chief minister Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, as well as MNAs Marvi Memon, Amir Muqam and Sheikh Waqas Akram have recently assured Musharraf of their support. Dawn added, “They told reporters that the president had criticized PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif for what he termed his personal vendetta against him.” Additionally, reported the news agency, Musharraf “dismissed as rubbish the allegations of misappropriation of hundreds of millions of dollars of U.S. military assistance, saying that pocketing foreign aid by an individual was not possible because it was utilised under a system.”

PPP co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari, who had made those allegations yesterday, reportedly backed away from such claims soon afterwards. The News reported that Zardari, in an interview with Geo TV‘s Hamid Mir, said that “it would be premature to say that President Musharraf might have misappropriated the U.S. aid given to Pakistan in war against terror.”

What happens next remains to be seen. However, it looks like President Musharraf is not going down without a fight. For further analysis, view the below segment from Al-Jazeera English:

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On Monday, The News reported that the Punjab Assembly passed a resolution [almost] “unanimously demanding President Pervez Musharraf to seek a vote of confidence.” The news agency added, “A total of 321 votes supported the resolution whereas only 25 went against it.” According to the Associated Press, lawmakers of the country’s “most powerful province” accused the President of “gross misconduct” and demanded he step down from office, in what the news agency called, “an opening salvo in the ruling coalition’s campaign to oust the defiant former army chief.” The AP further reported that lawmakers of the PA even drew support from the main pro-Musharraf party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. The news agency added, “Though the measure carries no constitutional weight, it ramps up the pressure on the president.”

The political volatility of the country seems further exacerbated by the current security situation, a fact highlighted by the aforementioned AP report. According to the news agency:

The political battle unfolded as witnesses reported Pakistan’s military rained bombs on militants in a tribal region along the border with Afghanistan in fighting that has killed dozens of people and forced thousands to flee in recent days.

Media outlets today reported that Pakistani warplanes killed at least six civilians in a tribal area bordering Afghanistan after fierce clashes killed more than 50 Taliban militants. The AFP cited “local security officials” in its coverage, who said, “Jets pounded suspected Islamist hideouts after rebels attacked two security posts overnight, but some bombs hit civilian houses in the Bajaur tribal zone, a known haunt of Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.”

However, in a sign that militants “are also cranking up the pressure,” the AFP reported that Ayman al-Zawahiri, the deputy to Al Qaeda’s Osama bin Laden, released his first English-language video call for jihad in Pakistan.The Daily Times reported that the purported audiotape of Zawahiri announced that “Musharraf mistreated AQ Khan to please Washington and allowed U.S. agencies’ operations inside Pakistan.” Pakistan’s ARY Television network, which aired the clip, “said that parts of the tape, which was first aired on Sunday, were withheld ‘due to sensitivities and personal attacks.’” Nevertheless, the first official message by the AQ deputy in English called for the Pakistani people “to support jihad in Pakistan and lists a litany of grievances against the Pakistani government and U.S. involvement there.”

Although the authenticity of the tape has not yet been verified, it comes amid a growing anti-Musharraf wave that is likely to increase. Although Pakistan’s National Assembly reportedly convened today to discuss impeachment proceedings, observers say “it could be several days before it hears the charges against Mr. Musharraf.” The charges, of course, are ever-intensifying. Dawn reported today, “The government’s charge-sheet against President Pervez Musharraf will comprise hundreds of pages containing charges of misconduct, financial irregularities, violations of the Constitution and ‘criminal acts’ that could lead to an open trial, but the PPP expects the president to resign before the impeachment motion is submitted to parliament.”

There are two obvious questions. The first: Will Musharraf cave to this mounting pressure and exit gracefully? BBC News quoted presidential spokesman Rashif Qureshi, who asserted over the weekend that Musharraf would not step down from office. Qureshi stated, “Everything they are saying is false, so why should he resign?” The BBC added, “The charges are not likely to be presented to parliament until after independence celebrations on Thursday. Before then the government is getting the four provincial assemblies to hold their own votes – which will ask the president to seek a vote of confidence.” [So far, we have seen the near-unanimous results from the Punjab Assembly, see above.] Although the provincial assembly votes will not have any direct bearing on the impeachment process, it will encourage more politicians to call for the president’s resignation, the BBC reported. The coalition, therefore, seeks to increase the heat on the president until he resigns voluntarily.

The second question: What next? It seems that the pressure on Musharraf will not dissipate until the president is out of office. However, what happens afterwards? Adviser to the Prime Minister on Production and Industries Manzoor Wattoo told the Daily Times that PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari “may be the next president” of the country as he “had representation in all provincial assembles and the National Assembly.” So – President Musharraf to President Zardari? An unelected official to yet another unelected figure. Tell me, how is that change? [For further commentary, see CHUP's past op-ed, entitled, "Zardari, the Godfather?"] [Images from BBC News & Reuters]

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Following the second consecutive day of negotiations Wednesday, media outlets reported that Pakistan’s ruling coalition “will move to impeach President Pervez Musharraf on charges of plunging the country into a political and economic crisis.” According to the Associated Press, the PML-N announced Friday that it is rejoining the Cabinet, “a gesture of solidarity now that the bickering coalition partners have agreed to seek President Pervez Musharraf’s impeachment.” The PML-N dramatically resigned from the Cabinet in May, [see related post], over differences regarding the restoration of the judiciary. Today, however, PML-N party officials announced that four of the nine ministers who left would return “in a goodwill gesture.”

Although impeachment plans were announced Thursday, Musharraf still showed no signs of giving into political pressure. Instead, news sources reported the president remained “busy” planning his defense strategy. According to an article in the International Herald Tribune, entitled, “Musharraf Plans Spirited Defense,” the president “faces the first impeachment proceedings in Pakistan’s history.” Party leaders have told news agencies that the grounds for impeaching Musharraf included his imposition of emergency rule and the firing of nearly 60 judges last November as well as his mismanagement of the economy. The IHT article cited Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q who said of the president: “He will say: ‘Look here, I’ve been in office for eight years. I’ve made some mistakes but at least I am not a crook. I have no foreign bank accounts, no properties abroad, unlike the opposition leaders who are gunning for me.”‘

Additionally, noted Hussain:

Musharraf would try to draw a distinction between himself and his opponents: Asif Ali Zardari, leader of the majority party in the coalition, the Pakistan People’s Party, and Nawaz Sharif, the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N. In the 1990s, both Zardari and Sharif faced corruption charges in Pakistan, and Zardari spent nearly eight years in prison on charges that included paying for a country manor in Britain with illegal gains from Pakistan. On Zardari’s return to Pakistan earlier this year after the assassination of his wife, Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, the corruption charges were dropped as part of an amnesty deal with the Musharraf government.

PML-Q leaders have publicly asserted their support for Musharraf, and they are not alone. According to Dawn, “The president has been holding meetings with his legal aides and loyalists over the past two days. Prominent among those contacted by the president were PML-Q president Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, Chaudhry Hamid Nasir Chattha, PML-F chief Pir Pagara, PPP-Sherpao president Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao and Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.” Musharraf loyalists claim the coalition lacks the two-thirds majority needed in the Parliament to constitutionally impeach the president.

The choice, noted, Mushahid, is essentially between President Musharraf and President Zardari. “That,” he asserted, “is the question for 160 million people of Pakistan.” According to both Pakistani and Western officials, reported the IHT, Zardari “has indicated that he would like to be president after Musharraf’s departure.” The start of the impeachment proceedings will reportedly begin Monday, and will take at least a week “to gather resolutions calling for the impeachment from provincial assemblies and for the National Assembly to formally approve the start of proceedings.” According to the IHT, “After those preliminaries, the Constitution requires the speaker of the National Assembly to call a joint session of both houses of Parliament no earlier than seven days and no later than 14 days after receiving the approval of Parliament to hear charges. The joint session would then basically become a jury on Musharraf’s tenure.”

Will Musharraf stick it out through the proceedings? At this point, it looks like he’s refusing to budge, despite calls to leave quietly and with his dignity still intact. An op-ed in The News today concluded, “The best course for him is to go. Mr. President, please spare the nation and go.” Whether or not he will heed such advice, of course, remains to be seen. [Image from the AFP]

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On Tuesday, PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari and PML-N head Nawaz Sharif agreed “to give priority to [the] impeachment of President Musharraf after they realized that the president has made up his mind to dissolve the assemblies and send the coalition government packing,” reported The News. The news agency added, “Sources told The News that both the leaders reviewed President Musharraf’s engagements and activities and found out that in meetings with leaders of different parties including the PML-Q, the MQM and the Pagara League, the president was giving indications of uprooting the government and the system.”

However, the News can sometimes be guilty of sensationalized reporting, especially on the Musharraf issue. Although other Pakistani news sources made no mention of the president’s “indications of uprooting” the current government, they did also report on the new PPP/PML-N agreement. According to Dawn, the two parties “agreed to formally ask President Pervez Musharraf to step down and to impeach him through parliamentary measures if he did not oblige…” The Daily Times provided a more tepid account, noting that Zardari and Nawaz “agreed in principle to impeach President Pervez Musharraf, provided that all coalition partners assured their support for this endeavor.”

This is not the first time such talk of impeachment has been discussed. However, Dawn cited PML-N leader Khawaja Asif who reportedly confirmed in an interview that “all legal and constitutional hitches are being removed to impeach the president.” Moreover, reported the Daily Times, sources privy to the “make-or-break” meeting told the news agency that “the agreement came about after senior PML-N leader Khawaja Asif assured Zardari that the coalition partners had sufficient strength to impeach President Musharraf if the PPP took the initiative.”

Perhaps also significant were reports that President Musharraf “abruptly” canceled his trip to the Beijing Olympics amid these “fears that he could be impeached.” Although the AFP reported that the Pakistani president changed his mind soon after and will travel to China for the Olympics opening ceremony, a senior foreign ministry official told the news agency that Musharraf will now fly out Thursday instead of today. Although the official declined to comment on the change of plans, the series of abrupt decisions may be indicative of Musharraf’s concern over the future of his office. His previously planned departure for today also coincided with Zardari and Nawaz’s second round of talks this morning. Perhaps the change of plans may not have been a coincidence at all.

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In the past few days, Western media coverage of Pakistan was dominated by speculation of President Pervez Musharraf‘s resignation from office. However, according to Reuters, the president said today that “he had no immediate plan to resign or go into exile, in a bid to quash rising speculation he will quit office soon.” The news agency added,

Musharraf has stubbornly held on to the presidency despite losing parliamentary backing and public support, and talk hit fresh heights in the past week that he was planning to step down and leave newly elected civilian leaders to run the country.

The UK’s Guardian on Friday reported that talk of Musharraf’s resignation “has hit the streets, where rumors are rife of frenetic bag packing and a newly arrived jet to whisk the president into foreign retirement. Stock prices dived last week on the back of the rumors.” This week’s Economist affirmed, “Many Pakistanis think that Pervez Musharraf’s days as their president are numbered.” However despite the volume of rumors reaching a climax, the presidency “swatted away the speculation and said Mr. Musharraf was staying put.” The Guardian cited Musharraf’s spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, who said, “This is absolute lies…He’s not even packed his golf bag.” The Guardian noted, “Qureshi, a long-time loyalist, said Musharraf was being smeared by the Jang group, a media conglomerate which had its television stations shut temporarily by the president last year.” What is certain, noted the news agencies, is that Musharraf has a wide array of very powerful enemies, a fact that could keep rumors abound for a long time to come, should he choose to stay in office.

According to the Associated Press today, although Musharraf told reporters he would not quit under pressure, “he indicated that he would go if the new government succeeds in its plan to reduce his powers to the point where he feels like a ‘useless vegetable.’” He asserted, “Parliament is supreme. Whatever the Parliament decides I will accept it…If I see that I don’t have any role to play, then it is better to play golf.”

Ignoring the somewhat amusing golf references, what will it actually take to impeach Musharraf, who arguably became increasingly unpopular after he sacked Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry in March 2007? According to the Guardian, to oust the president, or take away his powers, “the PPP and PML(N) would need to pass a constitutional amendment, requiring a two-thirds majority in parliament, which they cannot muster. An alternative way to oust him would be to restore the sacked judges by an executive order, assuming they would go on to rule his presidential election unconstitutional.”

It is arguable that Pakistan’s recurring crises, oscillating between the judiciary restoration and the Musharraf issue, is distracting to a government that has other impending problems to handle – most notably, the rising food prices and power shortages. This is not to say that these issues are mutually exclusive or that the judiciary issue is not fundamental to this new government, but until it and some solution to the presidency are resolved, we cannot expect to properly tackle the country’s other pressing problems and we can expect to see further economic ramifications. [Image from the AP]

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