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February 24, 2008
Musharraf on his way out?
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has decided to quit the presidency in order to avoid an impeachment battle with Parliament, a close aid has told the Sunday Telegraph:
One close confidante said that the president believed he had run out of options after three of the main parties who triumphed in last week's poll announced they would form a coalition government together, and also pledged to reinstate the country's chief justice and 60 other judges sacked by Mr Musharraf in November. This makes Musharraf smarter than many in the US government who insisted that the Pakistani president could ride out the storm. That may have been true but at what cost to Pakistan's stability in the midst of a war with extremists?
"He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself," a close friend said. "I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high." According to senior aides, Mr Musharraf wants to avoid a power struggle with the newly elected parliament, in which his opponents will be close to the two-thirds majority needed to impeach him and remove him from office.
"He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn't want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office," said an official close to the president.
The real handwriting on the wall came when all three parties in the coalition indicated that they would bring back Musharraf's arch enemy Muhammad Chaudhry - the former Chief Justice of the Pakistani Supreme Court who was set to invalidate Musharraf's re-election as Presidnent when emergency rule was delcared and Chaudhry was arrested. There was a possibility that the other justices would also be brought back which could reopen the entire reelection question and make Musharraf's position untenable anyway.
It is likely that Musharraf will face some kind of legal proceedings after he steps down whether related to the state of emergency or some corruption charges.