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Pakistan ruling coalition claims victory as Musharraf bows out

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | August 18, 2008 16:45 IST

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Pakistan's triumphant ruling coalition on Monday termed President Pervez Musharraf's [Images] decision to resign "a victory for democratic forces" as impromptu celebrations by workers of Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz erupted across the country.

"The biggest hurdle in the way of democracy has been removed," Pakistan People's Party chief Bilawal Bhutto told reporters shortly after the 65-year-old president decided to bow out rather than face a humiliating impeachment motion against him by the ruling coalition.

Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said, "It's a realistic decision (in view of) the way things were unfolding."

Qureshi said, "the democratic leadership of the coalition" will decide on whether to grant a safe exit to Musharraf.

"I am sure they would assess the speech, the consequences and repercussions, and they would also keep in mind the political developments in the country and reach a decision," he said.

The PPP-led coalition had been tightening the noose around Musharraf, threatening to table a chargesheet against him in Parliament om Tuesday.

Hundreds of PPP workers burst into celebrations outside the home of party co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari on hearing of the president's decision to step down.

The workers distributed sweets and shouted slogans hailing slain party chairperson Benazir Bhutto [Images] and her widower Zardari.

PPP leader Farzana Raja said it was "a victory for the democratic forces and ideals of the party that Musharraf had been made to step down in a constitutional manner."

"It is a victory of democratic forces," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said. "Today the shadow of dictatorship that prevailed for long over this country has been lifted."

Qureshi said the nation had spoken in the February 18 general election.

"The Parliament was more or less decided to move in a particular direction... (Musharraf's decision) will hopefully bring political stability to Pakistan and you can see the immediate reaction in the stock markets, which have risen.

I hope it has a positive impact on the country and it will remove uncertainty. Democracy should gain strength and momentum," the foreign minister added.

The PPP's main ally PML-N has been insisting that Musharraf should be held accountable for his actions over the past nine years.

However, Qureshi said a decision on this would be taken by the coalition's leadership.

On who would be the country's next President, Bilawal Bhutto said, "I am sure it will be someone from Pakistan People's Party."

© Copyright 2008 PTI. All rights reserved. Republication or redistribution of PTI content, including by framing or similar means, is expressly prohibited without the prior written consent.


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