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Defiant Musharraf vows to remain in office

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | August 06, 2008 16:16 IST

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A defiant Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Wednesday vowed to use all his constitutional powers to thwart efforts to remove him from office after the ruling coalition closed ranks on his possible impeachment.

Warning that any move to impeach him could 'destabilise the country', 64-year-old Musharraf, who abruptly cancelled his visit to China to attend the Olympic [Images] Games opening, told leaders of his ally Pakistan Muslim League-Q that he would continue to play his constitutional role as the head of State.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told media persons that Musharraf, who was due to fly to Beijing [Images], had called off his visit due to 'developments at home', as the ruling coalition allies Pakistan People's Party and Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz went into a huddle for the second day to decide his fate.

Following the meeting, PML-Q leaders Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain and Chaudhry Pervaiz Elahi, the Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, told television news channels that Musharraf had said he would use his constitutional powers to counter any move to impeach him. They did not give details.

Differences over handling of Musharraf and reinstatement of judges sacked by the president under a state of emergency last November have strained relations between the two ruling coalition allies with Nawaz Sharif's PML-N quitting the cabinet in May.

The PPP, which has refrained from taking on Musharraf head on after formation of government in March, now appears to have given in to pressure from Sharif, who was ousted by the former General in a bloodless coup in 1999.

After marathon talks, PPP Chairman Asif Ali Zardari has reportedly agreed in principle to impeach the President if all partners in the coalition assured their support for such a move.

As Musharraf was closeted with his constitutional and legal advisors to forge a strategy to counter any move to impeach him, Nawaz Sharif's PML-N on Wednesday warned the President might dissolve Parliament to remain in power.

Under the controversial Article 58(2b) of the Constitution, Musharraf still has the power to dissolve Parliament and dismiss the elected prime minister. A constitutional reforms package drawn up by the PPP envisages stripping the President of these powers.

Senior PML-N leader Ahsan Iqbal, a close aide of party chief Nawaz Sharif, said the parliament had the constitutional right to impeach the President 'at any time' if a majority of members felt that he should be removed.

The military had no role in this matter, he said.

Iqbal, however, did not rule out the possibility of Musharraf using his powers to dissolve Parliament.

Noting that Musharraf had 'destroyed the judiciary' by imposing emergency last year at a time when the judges were set to rule against the President, Iqbal said: "He (Musharraf) might make such a commando attack on Parliament, but then all democratic forces, civil society and the people of Pakistan will face it and we will refuse to accept it."

Iqbal added that this should be the 'final round' between Musharraf and democratic forces, and it would lead to a 'final and ultimate victory for democracy in the country'.

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