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Musharraf in last ditch attempt to avoid impeachment

Article published on the 2008-08-15 Latest update 2008-08-15 08:37 TU

Protesters chant anti-Musharraf slogans.(Photo: Reuters)

Protesters chant anti-Musharraf slogans.
(Photo: Reuters)

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf wants to resign rather than face impeachment but is seeking immunity from prosecution for imposing emergency rule, say officials. Speculation has been growing that Musharraf would quit since the ruling government coalition, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said last week it planned to impeach him.

Musharraf's spokesman Major General Rashid Qureshi criticised as "baseless" western newspaper reports that he would quit, but presidential allies and coalition officials both indicated that he was considering his resignation.

But a key Musharraf ally, former Deputy Information Minister Tariq Azim, says that negotiations are taking place. 

"Talks are underway and many people are interested that the issue is settled amicably without going into the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf," he said.

The coalition is expected to launch proceedings on Monday to end the president's nine-year rule. 

A two-thirds majority is required in the upper and lower houses of parliament to impeach Musharraf. The coalition is short of that number but has won vows of support from independents and at least one former Musharraf ally.

Musharraf, who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, declared a state of emergency on 3 November to force through his re-election as president for another five-year term. 

The President had spent the first eight years of his time in power relatively untroubled by his opponents, however public support began to wane after he tried to fire the country's chief justice in March 2007.

His political allies were then beaten in general elections in February by the parties that went on to form the coalition, but his opponents had until recently been divided on how to deal with him.