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Musharraf set to become first non-functional president

Hamid Mir | August 10, 2008 13:01 IST

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Lessons from Pakistan

The ruling Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz leaders have decided to make history. Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] will no longer be welcome to any government function. The ruling coalition wants him to become the first ever non-functional president in the history of Pakistan.

Verbal orders have been issued -- to all the federal government departments and also to the four provincial governments -- asking them not to invite the Pakistan president for the opening of any ceremony.

All the four provincial assemblies are slated to pass resolutions against the president this week. No chief minister will welcome him in any provincial capital.

Last year, Musharraf declared Ifikhar Muhammad Chaudhry the non-functional chief justice of Pakistan. This year, he is becoming the first non-functional president of the country. Some close friends have already advised Musharraf to step down quietly, but the General is still confident that his hand-picked army chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kyani will rescue him soon.
 
According to the Pakistan constitution, President Pervez Musharraf still holds more power than Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani [Images] and the parliament. He is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

Musharraf has the power to dissolve the national assembly, with the help of the army. He also has the power to impose governor's rule in any province.

However, PPP co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari and Pakistan Muslim League-N chief Nawaz Sharif believe that President Musharraf is no longer in a position to suspend the government with the help of the Pakistan army [Images].

The army is already involved in military operations in Baluchistan and the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan. If the army decided to side with Musharraf against the newly elected democratic government, then the people of Sindh and Punjab provinces would come out on the roads.
 
Article 41 of the constitution says, 'There shall be a president of Pakistan who shall be the head of state and shall represent the unity of the Republic'.

If the president of Pakistan becomes non-functional and the elected chief ministers of four units of the federation don't welcome him, then it will be very difficult for Musharraf to claim that he represents the unity of Pakistan.

The ruling coalition has decided to call a meeting of the national assembly to initiate impeachment process against Musharraf this week.

The speaker of the national assembly will hold a debate in the joint sitting of the two houses of parliament. According to article 47 of the constitution, a majority of two-thirds of the members in both houses must declare that the president is unfit to hold his office due to incapacity, or he is guilty of violating the constitution, or he is involved in gross misconduct.

Musharraf will face the first-ever impeachment motion in the history of Pakistan.
 
Highly-placed sources in the ruling coalition claim that a comprehensive and lethal chargesheet against President Musharraf is already in the making. This chargesheet may open many new Pandora's boxes.

The joint meeting of the two houses of parliament will try to pass a resolution against a person who abrogated the constitution of Pakistan not once but twice (October 12, 1999, and November 3, 2007), who arrested one elected prime minister in 1999 and then arrested the chief justice of Pakistan on March 9, 2007.

The chargesheet will say that according to article 56 of the constitution, the president was bound to address both houses of parliament at the commencement of the first session of the national assembly after the general election, but he never performed his constitutional obligations.

The chargesheet will accuse President Musharraf of conspiring against the sitting elected government with the help of opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

Ruling coalition members will also quote from his memoir In the Line of Fire during the debate and say that as the army chief and head of state, Musharraf created PML-Q on the advise of his close aide Tariq Aziz in 2002, which was a clear violation of the constitution as well as the Army's rules.
 
PML-N members will demand the setting up of an independent inquiry commission against Musharraf to investigate the Kargil episode.

According to sources in the ruling coalition, Musharraf will have a safe exit only if he resigns from the president's office in the next two days.

Once the impeachment motion is passed by the parliament, it will be difficult for the government to provide him a safe exit, because many people in Pakistan want him to be prosecuted. They want him to face a trial for going against the constitution, for the operation in Lal Masjid last year and for the killing of innocents in Baluchistan and tribal areas.
 
Earlier, United States Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher had advised Pakistani politicians that they stop squabbling about President Musharraf and focus on other issues like extremism, food shortage and power crisis.

The coalition leaders are now claiming that the Bush administration has finally discarded Musharraf and nobody from Washington will come to the rescue of their most trusted friend in Pakistan.
 
However, a federal minister of the ruling coalition has cautioned his leadership about the possible dangers in this new game. The minister believes that both the ruling coalition and President Musharraf are playing a very risky game. The numbers are very important in this game.

The ruling coalition needs 295 votes out of 442 to impeach President Musharraf. Currently, they claim to have the support of 305 members.

Musharraf might convince Pir Pagara of the PML-Functional to hold his party's six votes. Some dissidents in the PPP, led by senior leader Makhdoom Amin Fahim, may decide to abstain. In such a scenario, the ruling coalition may land in trouble.

Both Zardari and Sharif claim that they will ultimately win the support of 350 members.

The Army is trying to leave its political links behind and adopt a neutral stance. If it does not come to the rescue of its supreme commander, then Musharraf will become a 'lesson' in history.






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