18 August :With impeachment staring at his face, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf resigned on Monday ending a bitter confrontation with the ruling coalition but questions remained whether he was headed for a safe haven elsewhere.
"After reviewing the situation and consulting legal advisers and political allies and on their advice I have decided to resign," a grim-faced President said in an emotional internationally televised address.Quitting the office he had grabbed in a bloodless military coup almost nine years ago as the ruling coalition prepared to table the impeachment motion against him on Tuesday, Musharraf said he wanted to spare the nation from a battle that would strain the relationship between Presidency and the government and would not not be in the country’s interest.
Instant celebrations broke out on the streets of the capital city and elsewhere and the ruling coalition termed the resignation decision as a "victory for democratic forces".But questions arose immediately about whether Musharraf would remain in the country or go to some safe haven abroad Saudi Arabia or Turkey.
There was no no confirmation of reports that he may go to Jeddah, where his detractor and PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif, whom he had toppled in October 1999 to grab power, had resided under a deal with Saudi Arabia.
Similarly, there was also speculation whether he was being given immunity by the coalition for his actions.Media reports said there was a special aircraft waiting at a military base near Rawalpindi to fly Musharraf out of the country.
Musharraf is expected to be given a farewell.Coalition leaders including PPP co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Sharif, Awami National Party chief Afsandyar Wali Khan and Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman met at Zardari’s residence to assess the latest situation.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi described the resignation as a "realistic decision (in view of) the way things were unfolding" while Pakistan People’s Party chief Bilawal Bhutto said "the biggest hurdle in the way of democracy has been removed".
Quereshi said the coalition leadership would decide on whether to grant a safe exit to Musharraf and immunity to his actions.
"I am sure they would assess the speech (of Musharraf), the consequences and repercussions and they would also keep in mind the political developments in the country and reach a decision," he said.
PPP’s main ally PML(N) has been insisting that Musharraf should be held accountable for his actions over the past nine years and is opposed to both safe passage and immunity.
About who would be the country’s next President, Bilawal Bhutto said "I am sure it will be someone from PPP."
Information Minister Sherry Rehman said "it is a victory of democratic forces. Today the shadow of dictatorship that prevailed for long over this country has been removed".
Maintaining that he wanted to avoid the country being pushed into instability and confrontation, 65-year-old Musharraf said "No impeachment or no chargesheet can stand against me".
" Nothing can be proved against me. This much confidence I have in me. But I think this is not the time for individual bravado… this is the time for serious thought", he said.
"In the interest of the country, I have decided to resign. The resignation will reach the National Assembly Speaker shortly."
Musharraf’s decision brings to an end a bitter confrontation between the presidency and the five-month-old PPP-led coalition government that has been gunning for him since its victory in the 18th February elections.
With his announcement, all speculation about his putting up a fight in Parliament has ended but still it was not clear whether he would be given any immunity while he stays in Pakistan or a safe passage.
The charges in the impeachment proceedings were to include violating the constitution and gross misconduct including in the ouster of judges and the declaration of emergency rule.
The ruling coalition, especially PML(N) chief Nawaz Sharif who was dethroned by Musharraf in an October 1999 bloodless coup and PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari, had asked him to quit.
Musharaf’s spokesmen had always maintained that he would not quit under pressure and would face the impeachment, a motion regarding which was to be tabled in National Assembly on Tuesday.
Musharraf was to be charged with various wrongdoings including violation of Constitution, murder of democracy and economic misconduct.
The PPP-led coalition had finalised a chargesheet in its bid to impeach Musharraf and was planning to submit it in Parliament on Tuesday if he did not not resign.
In his address, Musharraf asserted that all his decisions during his nine-year rule were in "national interest" as he recounted the "achievements" in all areas.
"Now, they want to impeach me. Are they afraid of my Constitutional powers? Impeachment and chargesheet is Parliament’s right. To give a reply is my right".
"No chargesheet can stand against me. No charge can be proved against me. I have this much confident in myself because I have not done anything for myself. Whatever I have done, I have done for Pakistan, its people. Whatever the chargesheet I have no fear," Musharraf said.
"But questions arise as to what impact the impeachment will have on the country. Whether the country will descend into further instability and confrontation. Whether the office of Presidency should come under pressure. Should it come under impeachment procedure?"
He said whether he won or lost, the country will stand to lose if the impeachment was undertaken."The dignity of the office of the president will be affected…. The country’s dignity will be maintained." DDINEWS