Musharraf 'ready to resign'

Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf is ready to resign rather than face impeachment, but is seeking immunity from prosecution and agreement on a safe place to live, coalition government officials said on Friday.

Speculation has been mounting that former army chief Musharraf, a firm United States ally, would quit since the ruling coalition, led by the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, said last week it planned to impeach him.

A spokesperson for the president has repeatedly denied media reports that he was about to quit, and he did so again on Friday, saying “baseless and malicious rumours” about the president’s plan to resign were damaging the economy.

But coalition officials said negotiations on the terms of the unpopular president’s resignation were going on, although the two main coalition parties differed on whether Musharraf should face trial if he quits.

“He is ready to resign but he is putting conditions like indemnity for the November 3 action,” said the official, who declined to be identified, referring to Musharraf’s imposition of six weeks of emergency rule last year.

“Back-door talks are still going on. Things have not yet been finalised. Let’s see what happens,” said the official, who has knowledge of the talks.

The long-running crisis surrounding Musharraf’s future has heightened concern in the US and among other allies about the stability of the nuclear-armed Muslim state, which is in the front line of the campaign against Islamist militancy.

Musharraf seized power in a 1999 coup but has been isolated since his allies lost a February election.

In Washington, White House spokesperson Dana Perino referred to reports of Musharraf’s resignation plan as a “rumour mill”, adding that the US considered the leadership of Pakistan an issue for Pakistanis.

Musharraf’s spokesperson, retired Major General Rashid Qureshi, said rumours of a resignation plan were “baseless and malicious”.

But Tariq Azeem Khan, a politician close to Musharraf and a former deputy government minister, said talks were going on.

“Well-wishers are trying to ensure that matters are settled amicably through discussions rather than going through a long, protracted impeachment process,” he said.—Reuters



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