Musharraf to address nation, may announce resignation

Allies and rivals of president confirm backchannel talks underway aimed at avoiding impeachment process.

musharraf 224.88 ap (photo credit:)
musharraf 224.88 ap
(photo credit: )
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, who is under pressure to resign in the face of possible impeachment, planned to address the nation Monday afternoon, his spokesman said. The spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, would not say if Musharraf would announce his resignation in the speech, expected around 1 p.m. (0700 GMT). Musharraf, a longtime US ally in the war on terror, has resisted calls to resign for months, despite the ascension of his foes to power. Calls for his exit have mounted in recent days as the new ruling coalition announced it would seek to impeach him. On Sunday, a committee of the ruling coalition finalized a list of impeachment charges against Musharraf after five days of talks, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said. The charges are expected to accuse Musharraf of violating the constitution and gross misconduct, and officials said impeachment motion could reach Parliament this week. Allies and rivals of the president have confirmed that back-channel talks have been under way aimed at avoiding an impeachment. Some current and former supporters have suggested that Musharraf might resign in return for guarantees he will not be prosecuted or forced into exile, and officials say Western and Arab emissaries have been in talks with the main parties. Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup, dominating Pakistan for years but growing increasingly unpopular. Anger against the president spiked in 2007 when he fired dozens of judges and imposed emergency rule. Although he gave up his dual role as army chief late last year, that did not salvage his reputation. His rivals came to power after February parliamentary elections and have largely sidelined Musharraf in the months since. With Musharraf's utility fading, Western concerns are less with his ultimate fate than about how the clamor is affecting the halting efforts of the new civilian government against terrorism and gathering economic woes. "He should tender his resignation, pack up his bags, and go," Sen. Raza Rabbani told reporters Sunday. "Whatever little moral authority was left has now been completely eroded." Officials released no specifics of the charges, which still need approval from top coalition chiefs. The coalition insists it will easily secure the required two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses of Parliament to oust Musharraf. Some analysts point to the lack of overt support from either the army or Washington - Musharraf's main props during his eight years in power - in predicting that he will quit. US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday that the Pakistani president's future was an internal issue. While Musharraf was a "good ally" who "kept his word" on ending military rule, whether he should resign "is a matter for Pakistan to determine," Rice said. The coalition includes the party of Nawaz Sharif, whose government was ousted in Musharraf's 1999 coup and who is calling for the ex-general to be tried for treason - a charge that can be punished with the death penalty. The Pakistan People's Party of slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto has taken a milder tone. Rehman said the People's Party would shun the "politics of revenge" that scars the 61-year history of the South Asian nation. "We want stability in the country; we want political stability. We want to make progress in the light of the mandate that has been given to our government," Rehman said.