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Musharraf quits as Pakistan president
Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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August 18, 2008 11:21 IST
Last Updated: August 18, 2008 15:27 IST

Facing an imminent impeachment, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] on Monday announced his resignation maintaining that he wanted to avoid the country being put into instability and confrontation.

"No impeachment or no chargesheet can stand against me... But I think this is not the time for individual bravado. This is the time for serious thought. In the interest of the country, I have decided to resign. The resignation will reach the National Assembly speaker shortly," the 65-year-old former army chief said in an emotional internationally televised address.

Pakistan's Senate Chairman Mohammed Mian Soomro will take over as acting president, Law Minister Farooq Naek said.

Musharraf's decision brings to an end a bitter confrontation between the presidency and the five-month-old Pakistan People's Party-led coalition government that has been gunning for him since its victory in the February 18 elections.

With his announcement, all speculation about his putting up a fight in Parliament has ended, but still it was not clear whether he would be given any immunity while he stays in Pakistan or a safe passage.

The ruling coalition, especially PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif who was dethroned by Musharraf in an October 1999 bloodless coup and PPP chief chief Asif Ali Zardari, had asked him to quit to avoid being impeached.

His spokesmen had always maintained that he would not quit under pressure and would face the impeachment, a motion regarding which was to be tabled in National Assembly on Tuesday.

Musharraf was to be charged with various wrongdoings, including violation of Constitution, murder of democracy and economic misconduct.

In his address, Musharraf asserted that all his decisions during his nine-year rule were in 'national interest' as he recounted the 'achievements' in all areas.

"Now, they want to impeach me. Are they afraid of my Constitutional powers? Impeachment and chargesheet is Parliament's right. To give a reply is my right. Whatever I have done, I have done for Pakistan, its people. Whatever the chargesheet I have no fear," Musharraf said.

"But questions arise as to what impact the impeachment will have on the country; whether the country will descend into further instability and confrontation; whether the office of presidency should come under pressure. Should it come under impeachment procedure?" he asked.

He said whether he won or lost, the country will stand to lose if the impeachment was undertaken.

"The dignity of the office of the president will be affected. The country's dignity will be maintained," he added.

Contending that he had dedicated 44 years of his life in the service of the nation as an army man, Musharraf said he was taking the decision to quit to avoid the prolonging of the "atmosphere of uncertainty" and to save Parliament from horse-trading.

"I don't want to put my friends (supporters) in problem. Even if the impeachment is defeated, the relationship between the presidency and the government will be bitter," Musharraf said.

He said he could have adopted a different course if he had done anything in self-interest. But he avoided that as impeachment could lead to acrimony between Parliament and judiciary and the army could be dragged into it "which I never want".

"Keeping all this in view and taking into account all the factors and in consultation with legal experts, supporters and close aides and on their advise and in the interest of the country I have decided to resign," a grim Musharraf said.

"I don't need anything for me. I put my future in the hands of the people," he said, adding, "I too am human and could have made some mistakes. I hope these will be pardoned because by intentions were clear."

Musharraf said his supporters wanted him to continue, but the decision to resign was the need of the hour.

Describing the allegations made by the ruling coalition against him as "false and baseless", which will harm the country, he said all his decisions were taken in consultation with all stakeholders including politicians, army and bureaucrats on board.

Musharraf said that the people were being misled by the allegations against him. "They may damage me, but they are damaging the country's interests."

He also claimed that he had always strove for reconciliation, but the ruling coalition has chosen the path of confrontation. "At the personal and Constitutional level no vendetta was practiced by me. Unfortunately all my efforts to promote reconciliation, my pleas to forget the past and look to the future have failed," Musharraf said in his hour-long speech.

He recounted the situation faced by Pakistan when he took over power when there was a threat of the country being "declared a terrorist state and people with Kalashnikov rifles and hood were moving about freely."

He also said that he had revived the Pakistani economy, worked for women's emancipation and improved the situation in various sectors.

Musharraf claimed he had brought the "essence of democracy" in Pakistan. "Being an army man, I am perceived as anti-democratic. But earlier democracy was just a label on a bottle. I brought the essence to it by successfully holding elections... The February 18 polls were free, fair and transparent," he said.

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