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Pakistani Government Moves To Impeach Musharraf

Nawaz Sharif (left) and Asif Ali Zardari at the press conference on August 7
Nawaz Sharif (left) and Asif Ali Zardari at the press conference on August 7
Asif Ali Zardari, the head of Pakistan's ruling coalition and widower of former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, dramatically announced in Islamabad that the government will seek to impeach Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf.

"The coalition leadership believes that it has become imperative to move for impeachment under Article 47 against General Musharraf," Zardari said.

The ruling coalition has called a session of the central and provincial legislatures for August 11 to begin the impeachment proceedings.

Pakistani and international media report that Musharraf, a former commando general who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, has indicated he will fight the attempt to remove him from office. One possible strategy would be to dissolve parliament -- a constitutional power that the president has.

Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister and leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, a major coalition partner of Zardari's Pakistani People's Party, warned Musharraf against dissolving the parliament, saying the "country cannot afford another marital law."

Experts believe that the key factor in determining future Pakistani political developments is the role of its military. The military has ruled the country for more than half of Pakistan's 60-year history and is widely seen as the main power broker in the South Asian country.

But General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, the head of the Pakistani military, has repeatedly indicated he will keep the army out of politics and not intervene to rescue Musharraf, who has the military's backing.

Senator Iqbal Zafar Jhagra, the secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party, tells RFE/RL that it will be difficult for the Pakistani military to ignore the prevailing anti-Musharraf sentiment in the country.

"The Pakistani military can see that the Pakistani people decided in favor of the democratic forces and against the dictatorial elements [in February's elections]," Jhagra says. "So, in these conditions, the military is definitely expected to respect the people's verdict."

The Pakistani coalition also announced that once Musharraf is impeached, they will also reinstate some 60 judges that he dismissed on November 3 after declaring a state of emergency.

Political pundits in Pakistan believe that the impeachment of Musharraf may prove to be more complicated than expected and will do little to ease other crises in the country.

These now include the chronic electricity shortages that have frustrated Pakistanis, who are reeling from unprecedented inflation while the military battles an increasingly violent Taliban insurgency in the northwest of the country. Meanwhile, in the southwestern Baluchistan Province, ethnic-Baluchi separatists appear too resilient to be defeated militarily.
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    Abubakar Siddique

    Abubakar Siddique, a journalist for RFE/RL's Radio Azadi, specializes in the coverage of Afghanistan and Pakistan. He is the author of The Pashtun Question: The Unresolved Key To The Future Of Pakistan And Afghanistan. He is also one of the authors of the Azadi Briefing, a weekly newsletter that unpacks the key issues in Afghanistan.