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]