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Pakistan party steps up calls for Musharraf's impeachment after his pledge to stay

Pakistan party steps up calls for Musharraf's impeachment after his pledge to stay

A junior party in Pakistan's government called Sunday for its main coalition partner to back the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf, a day after the former army strongman rebuffed calls from both parties to resign.
Ahsan Iqbal, a spokesman for ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's party, called Musharraf "a virus in the democratic computer" and said Asif Ali Zardari's party should not hesitate to "join us for Musharraf's impeachment."
A spokesman for Zardari's party said it would "consider" pushing for impeachment proceedings in light of Musharraf's defiance.
The president's fate has been a key focus of squabbling in Pakistan's fractious coalition government. The infighting comes as the country faces a dire economic situation and ongoing militancy in its regions bordering Afghanistan.
The parties of Sharif and Zardari, the two largest in the coalition, won February elections on anti-Musharraf platforms. But Sharif's party has been more vociferous in demanding Musharraf's ouster than Zardari's party, though the latter has hardened its stance in recent days.
The coalition has already threatened to unravel because of a dispute between the two parties over whether restoration of dozens of judges sacked by Musharraf should be linked to a constitutional package that weakens the presidency and allows judicial reforms.
On Saturday, Musharraf _ a longtime U.S. ally in the war on terror _ deflected rising calls for his resignation and denied he planned to go into exile.
Zardari's party over the weekend branded Musharraf a "de facto president" and "a one-man demolition squad who demolished the Constitution, the judiciary and the Parliament."
But Zardari party spokesman Farhatullah Babar said Sunday, "Right now I can't say whether the party is going to go ahead with impeachment and if so when." He added, however, the party would have to "consider" pushing for impeachment following Musharraf's public statements.
When asked about Musharraf during a visit to Saudi Arabia, Zardari on Saturday referred to the supremacy of Parliament in determining whether to depose the president.
"The Parliament always has the power that whenever they want, they can send home democratically a president or a prime minister," Zardari said, according to comments reported by the Associated Press of Pakistan.
However, it was unclear whether the two parties could muster the two-thirds vote needed for Parliament to impeach Musharraf.
On Sunday, Nawaz Sharif's brother Shahbaz blasted the president after being elected the chief minister of Pakistan's most powerful province, Punjab.
"In the larger interest of country and for its survival, I request that General Musharraf resign and go home," Shahbaz Sharif said as members of the provincial assembly chanted "Go, Musharraf, Go!"
"General Musharraf's dictatorship is taking its last breath," said Shahbaz Sharif, who was elected by the assembly to a position he held before Musharraf ousted his brother in a 1999 military coup.
Sharif's party has not only called for Musharraf's impeachment but also demanded he be tried for treason _ which carries the death penalty.
But Zardari's party is unlikely to support such a tough course of action, which would upset Pakistan's allies in the West, including U.S. President George W. Bush, who has publicly backed Musharraf.
Although Musharraf insisted he would not leave under pressure, he indicated he would prefer to retire if the government succeeds in reducing his position to a ceremonial one.
"Parliament is supreme. Whatever the Parliament decides I will accept it," Musharraf said on Pakistani TV news.
"If I see that I don't have any role to play, then it is better to play golf," the president said. "I cannot become a useless vegetable."
Musharraf appealed to political leaders to unite and address economic woes. Pakistan faces trade and budget deficits, double-digit inflation and severe electricity shortages.
The new government is also under pressure to stop striking peace deals with militants in its border regions, agreements the U.S. worries will give extremists time to regroup and intensify attacks in Afghanistan.
This week, anti-Musharraf groups as well as members of Sharif's party intend to join mass demonstrations that lawyers have planned to protest the new government's failure to restore the judges Musharraf fired during a burst of emergency rule last year.
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Associated Press Writer Nahal Toosi contributed to this report.


Updated : 2021-07-28 09:12 GMT+08:00