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Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)

The next 24 hours crucial for President Musharraf

IRNA - Islamic Republic News Agency

Islamabad, Aug 17, IRNA
President Pervez Musharraf on Friday has said that he would not resign as he was elected by the parliament as president for five years and would continue to play his constitutional role for the country.

President held meeting with his allies, Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi at the President Camp office Saturday, where he discussed impeachment issues with them.

However, a coalition government official claimed that President Musharraf is ready to resign rather than face impeachment but is seeking immunity from prosecution for imposing emergency rule.

Speculation has been mounting that he would quit since the ruling coalition said last week it planned to impeach him.

A spokesman for the president Saturday has also denied media reports that he was about to quit.

But a coalition official said negotiations on the terms of the unpopular president's resignation were going on.

"He is ready to resign but he is putting conditions like indemnity for the November 3 action," said the official, who declined to be identified, referring to Musharraf's imposition of six weeks of emergency rule last year.

"Back-door talks are still going on. Things have not yet been finalized. Let's see what happens," said the official, who has knowledge of the talks.

The long-running crisis surrounding Musharraf's future has heightened concern in the United States and among other allies about the stability of the country.

In Washington, White House spokeswoman Dana Perino referred to reports of Musharraf's resignation plan as a "rumor mill", adding that the United States considered the leadership of Pakistan an issue for Pakistanis.

Musharraf's chief spokesman, Major-General Rashid Qureshi (retd), said he had no idea of any plan by Musharraf to step down or that there were negotiations about his resignation.

"I'm tired of saying there's no such thing," he said.

But Tariq Azeem Khan, a politician close to Musharraf and a former deputy government minister, said talks were going on.

"Well-wishers are trying to ensure that matters are settled amicably through discussions rather than going through a long, protracted impeachment process," he said.

In an Independence Day address on Thursday Musharraf issued a call for reconciliation to tackle economic and security problems.

But his appeal was rejected, with coalition officials saying steps to impeach the president were on track.

The Financial Times quoted an unidentified government member as saying a deal had been brokered and Musharraf would resign.

It said Musharraf had demanded he be allowed to retire to his farm in Islamabad and that there be no moves to prosecute him once out of office.

It quoted an official as saying the army had insisted Musharraf's demands be met.

Coalition leaders said this week the army, which has ruled for more than half the country's history since its founding in 1947, would not intervene to back its old boss.

Analysts say the army is loath to step into the fray.

Coalition officials have been hoping Musharraf would quit to avoid impeachment, while some allies have said he should at least answer charges brought against him before stepping down.

"The next 48 hours are important. If he does not resign then we are ready to move the impeachment motion against him on Monday," said another coalition official.

PPP official Farhatullah Babar said his party and its main coalition partner PML (N) differed on the question of prosecuting the president.

Sharif said on Thursday Musharraf had to face the consequences of his actions but Babar said any decision should be left to parliament


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