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Pressure Builds on Pakistan’s Musharraf to Leave Office

BY Admin  August 13, 2008 at 12:05 PM EDT

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf

The Sindh province on Wednesday passed a resolution calling for Musharraf to face a vote of confidence. The lawmakers’ action followed similar moves by Pakistan’s largest province, Punjab, and the North West Frontier province earlier in the week.

The provincial assemblies, dominated by his opponents, are urging Musharraf to seek the confidence vote to determine his support. The ruling coalition has requested the votes as it prepares an impeachment motion, which could be taken up in parliament over the next few weeks, according to Reuters.

The Pakistan Peoples Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N are bringing charges of abuse of office against Musharraf, which he plans to challenge, according to his chief spokesman, Retired Gen. Rashid Qureshi, reported the Washington Post.

Ruling coalition leaders Asif Ali Zardari, the widower of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif announced the bid to impeach Musharraf last Thursday.

Qureshi said of the media reports citing unnamed officials saying Musharraf would step down: “Newspapers in Pakistan, I’m afraid, dream up things then start writing about them. There’s no such thing.”

A key factor in the political upheaval churning around Musharraf is how the army will respond. Musharraf, who gained power during a 1999 coup, was in charge of both the army and the country’s government until last year when he shed his military mantle. Coalition leaders said Tuesday that military leaders would not intervene to back their old boss, Reuters reported.

Musharraf still has the support of his Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, which met Sunday in Lahore to discuss the impeachment threat.

“We decided that we will back President Musharraf,” said party spokesman Sen. Tariq Azim Khan, quoted the Washington Post. “There is no question of him quitting. He was elected to a five-year term. He should explain himself to Parliament.”

Musharraf won his current five-year term in the outgoing Parliament, which consisted of a majority of his supporters.

No Pakistani president has ever been impeached. To do so, the ruling coalition would need at least half the members of either the upper or lower house of Parliament to pass an impeachment resolution, reported the New York Times.

Then, two-thirds of both houses in Parliament would have to vote to remove Musharraf from office based on charges presented against him.

Ruling party leaders have voiced confidence that the Musharraf impeachment bid would earn parliamentary support. “We hope that 90 percent of the lawmakers will support us,” Zardari said on Aug. 7.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, president of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, said Tuesday that the president is determined to defend himself against any charges.

“He will not quit,” Hussain said, according to the Wall Street Journal.