Pakistan assembly passes resolution against Musharraf

Peshawar, August 12:

Lawmakers in Pakistan’s northwest overwhelmingly passed a resolution today against President Pervez Musharraf, the second major act in the ruling coalition’s campaign to impeach and oust the longtime US ally.

The North West Frontier Province assembly’s move came a day after lawmakers in the eastern Punjab province passed a similar resolution calling on the former army chief to seek a vote of confidence from Parliament and provincial lawmakers or resign.

Otherwise, the provincial lawmakers say they will push for impeachment.

As in Punjab, the resolution in the northwest passed by a large margin, 107-4. The opposition came from members of the main pro-Musharraf party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q. During the proceedings, one female lawmaker tore down a large portrait of the president. “This tidal wave against President Pervez Musharraf shows that all democratic forces are together for his impeachment,” federal Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters in the capital, Islamabad.

She said the ruling parties’ “charge-sheet against Musharraf is very strong” and insisted the coalition enjoyed more than two-thirds of votes needed to remove the president. The impeachment motion in Parliament could move next week, she said.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and dominated Pakistan for years, but he grew increasingly unpopular, especially after he fired judges and declared emergency rule last year.

He has been largely sidelined since his foes won February parliamentary elections but has shown no intention of leaving despite impeachment calls.

Ruling party leaders have urged Musharraf to step down and spare Pakistan another ugly political fight to factor in its turbulent history. “The best option for Musharraf is that he should resign,” said Ishaq Dar, a top official in the second-largest party in the ruling coalition.

Musharraf supporters have accused the coalition of trying to deflect attention from its failure during more than four months in power to tackle economic and security problems. Tariq Azim, a Musharraf political ally, downplayed the provincial resolutions.

“No resolution passed by any provincial assembly has any relevance to the impeachment of the president, and if the coalition has any case, it must follow the proper course by moving a motion in the parliament,” Azim said. Musharraf has the constitutional power to dissolve Parliament, but doing that would be very controversial and require backing from a military trying to distance itself from politics.