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Pak Parliament convenes to oust defiant President

Last updated on: August 11, 2008 17:39 IST

Pakistan's National Assembly on Monday began a crucial session during which President Pervez Musharraf is likely to be impeached.

However, a defiant Pervez Musharraf launched a counter-attack on his foes saying he would prove 'false before the nation' all the allegations levelled against him by the ruling coalition.

The Pakistan People's Party-led coalition has said it has drawn up an 'unimpeachable' chargesheet listing allegations of misconduct, violation of Constitution and financial irregularities against Musharraf, who turned 65 on Monday.

"It will be an unimpeachable document supported by documentary evidence of all the acts of omission and commission committed by Musharraf that make him liable to impeachment several times," PPP spokesman Frahatullah Babar said.

The panel drafting the chargesheet has made 'significant progress' in listing the charges against Musharraf, he said.

Officials said the charges against the President are likely to be filed later in the week amid a rising clamour in the ruling coalition that he step down.

Hours before the 342-member National Assembly was due to meet in a crucial session, the wily former commando held talks with his supporters in the opposition PML-Q during which he vowed to prove 'false before the nation' all charges against him, the local Geo TV reported.

PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has alleged that Musharraf 'misappropriated' $700 million of aid given by Washington to Islamabad for supporting the war on terror.

The allegations made by Zardari against the President were discussed when PMLQ lawmakers --  Marvi Memon, Amir Muqam and Sheikh Waqas Ahmed -- met Musharraf for about an hour in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

'I will not disappoint you and face all the allegations of the ruling coalition,' Musharraf said during the meeting with PML-Q leaders.

Referring to his differences with the PPP, Musharraf said he had objected when the party wanted to place its own men in some key positions.

The President also thanked PML-Q for its support in his hour of need.

Leaders of the ruling coalition have also accused Musharraf of incompetence, pursuing economic policies that have brought Pakistan to the brink of a economic crisis, violating the Constitution and criminal acts.

After the four provincial assemblies pass separate resolutions asking Musharraf to seek a vote of confidence, the PPP-led coalition will submit an impeachment motion and chargesheet against Musharraf in the National Assembly.

Babar said the coalition had uncovered evidence of 'horrendous' crimes allegedly committed during the beleaguered President's rule. He did not elaborate.

"We are in the government now and have access to many previously confidential documents. After going through these documents, we are surprised over the horrendous nature of the crimes committed by President Musharraf during his almost nine-year rule," he said, without commenting on reports that the charges included those of corruption and murder.

A close aide of Musharraf indicated that the President would not resign, despite mounting calls that he step aside and make an honourable exit.

"People who are saying President Musharraf will resign -- they are either lying or they simply don't know his nature," former minister Rashid Qureshi said.

"President Musharraf is a man of character and no one can point a finger at him. He has a clean track record," he said, while declining to say what course of action Musharraf would take.

While there have been questions as to whether the coalition had the numbers in the two houses -- the National Assembly and the Senate, Zardari said he was '110 per cent sure' of the success of impeachment motion.

"We had already completed the numbers game before launching such a vital move," Zardari said. Both houses of Parliament have strength of 442, and the motion will have to be passed by a two-thirds majority or 295 members.

Anti-Musharraf parties, including the Jamaat-e-Islami and some Balochistan-based nationalist parties currently sitting in opposition benches in the Senate, have a total of 274 members -- 235 in the National Assembly and 39 in the Senate -- which is short of the magic number.

Information Minister Sherry Rehman said yesterday that the coalition had enough support to remove the President.

The impeachment motion and chargesheet against Musharraf are currently being drafted by a committee of leaders of the PPP and its main ally PML-N, with the leaders saying the documents are likely to be completed within three to four days.

"This is a concrete exercise and we have been doing our homework since 2002," Rehman, a member of the committee drafting the chargesheet, told media persons outside Parliament.

"It is a difficult path, it is not an easy path but in terms of numbers, we are entirely comfortable. The PPP and PML-N are very confident and all our allies are with us," Rehman said.

The PPP-led coalition announced on Thursday that it would launch impeachment proceedings against Musharraf, posing the biggest challenge to him since he grabbed power in a military coup in 1999.

Several members of the opposition PML-Q have also urged him to step down and some have even said they would vote in favour of an impeachment motion.

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