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Musharraf seeks reconciliation, mum on future plans

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | August 14, 2008 01:48 IST

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President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Wednesday night urged all political elements in Pakistan to adopt an "approach of reconciliation" to ensure political stability, but gave no indication of his future plans in the face of a move by the ruling coalition to impeach him.

Speaking at an event organised at the presidency to mark Pakistan's 61st Independence Day, the beleaguered president said political stability is needed to improve Pakistan's economy and to counter-terrorism.

"So long as we do not have political stability, we can't tackle both these issues properly. Political stability can be achieved through an approach of reconciliation as opposed to an approach of confrontation," he told a gathering that included several governors, top military commanders and leaders of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Q.

"I request all elements that they should adopt an approach of reconciliation so that there is political stability and we can confront problems like the worsening economy, extremism and terrorism on a strong footing. This is the need of the hour. We must sink our differences and adopt the slogan of 'Pakistan first' and move forward," he said.

Musharraf gave signs that he planned to dig in his heels and fight it out and did not respond to mounting speculation that he may quit in the next couple of days before facing a planned impeachment in Parliament.

He also did not throw light on his future plans as widely expected.

Musharraf also played the Kashmir card, lashing out at what he described as "human rights violations and excesses" against the people of the state.

"There is no doubt that every Pakistani is with his Kashmiri brothers and sisters at this juncture. I have no doubt that Kashmir is the heartbeat of every Pakistani and I have no doubt that Kashmir runs in the blood of Pakistan," Musharraf said.

His comments came even after India said Pakistan's statements on the situation in Jammu and Kashmir [Images] amounted to a "clear interference" in its internal affairs.

The president said Pakistan was "passing through a difficult period" and the country's "enemies and some elements, both external and internal, want to destabilise and weaken us."

"I believe there could be some conspiracy, external or internal, against our state institutions. We have to stand up as a nation and prove, as in 1947, that Pakistan will remain united. We must show this to the world."

Pakistan's strength, he said, is derived from the military and its economic might. "If both are there, the nation gets stronger. Our military army, navy and air force is intact and will always defend the country. The people and military are one, if the army has the back-up of the people, the oneness of the nation will be at the forefront," he said.

As in several of his recent speeches, Musharraf expressed concern at the state of the economy. The people must turn around the economy, prevent the flight of capital, arrest the fall in the value of the Pakistani currency and bring back investment to the country, he said.

The people must also save the country from extremism and terrorism. "We can confront these menaces when the people are with the military," he said.

Musharraf also condemned a bomb attack on a Pakistan Air Force vehicle in Peshawar on Tuesday that killed 14 people, including civilians. The terrorists were "hitting at Pakistan's foundations and spoiling the image of Islam," he said.

Even as he was addressing the nation, five policemen were killed and 20 others injured in a suicide attack outside a police station in the eastern Pakistani city of Lahore [Images].

Musharraf reminded the gathering that Pakistan's founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah had a vision of a prosperous, progressive and moderate nation.

"Pakistan's enemies have always thought that it will not remain united, but the people have proved our enemies wrong. Pakistan has prospered and progressed," he said.

Since morning, Pakistan was abuzz with speculation that Musharraf may resign to avert a showdown with the government, which is all set to bring an impeachment motion that received the backing of the third provincial Assembly on Wednesday.

Sindh became the third provincial Assembly to back the impeachment move of PPP-PML-N combine after Punjab and North West Frontier province. Balochistan province is expected to follow suit.

Musharraf gave no indication of what his response would be to the ruling coalition's efforts to remove him from office on charges of subverting and and violating the Constitution and bringing Pakistan to the brink of an economic crisis through the policies he pursued over the past eight years.

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