Central & South Asia
Musharraf to address the nation
Pakistani president to speak amid speculation that he would resign to avoid impeachment.
Last Modified: 18 Aug 2008 06:46 GMT
Musharraf's popularity has plummeted in recent years [AFP]

Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, is to address the nation on Monday afternoon, his spokesman said, while dismissing rumours that he had resigned to avoid impeachment.

"The president will address the nation at 1pm (0700GMT)," said the Rashid Qureshi, the chief presidential spokesman.

Qureshi added that reports suggesting the president had already resigned in the face of attempts by the governing coalition to impeach him, were "all nonsense".

Pakistani officials say that Musharraf's aides have been in talks with the
coalition, brokered by Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK, to allow him to quit in return for an indemnity for his previous actions.

Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said there was a tremendous amount of speculation that Musharraf would resign after the ruling coalition gave extra time to the president to reconsider the resignation issue.

"Otherwise, the coaltion said, he would be humiliated when impeachment proceedings were brought into parliament.

"The timing significant. There have been reports that there is a heavy amount of security at the airport, and that an aircraft was on the tarmac and that the president might resign."

'Writing on the wall'

Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said on Monday that it appeared that Musharraf had "seen the writing on the wall".

"He is a wise man, he is a very experienced man and he has seen the writing on the wall," Qureshi told Pakistan's Dawn News when asked if he had confirmation that Musharraf had resigned.

"He has seen the sentiments of not just the elected representatives, but various institutions ... who all asked him to move in a particular way and do not destabilise things here," he said.

On Sunday, Foreign Minister Qureshi, who is a member of the ruling Pakistan People's Party (PPP), said: "If he fails to decide to quit within the next two days, the impeachment process will take its course."

'Political fate sealed'

The governing coaltion pressured Musharraf by issuing an impeachment ultimatium [AFP]
Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for the PPP, said Musharraf's "political fate has been sealed. Whatever he says [to the nation] doesn't matter".

On Sunday, there was speculation that a deal might have been reached enabling Musharraf to resign without fear of prosecution.

But the ruling coalition has said it is against any deal that would grant him legal immunity.

Allies and rivals of the president have said ongoing talks could lead to the president's exit before an impeachment motion reaches parliament.

However, coalition officials said on Saturday that a draft of the impeachment charge sheet is awaiting approval from senior leaders.

Musharraf's spokesman has said the president is not resigning, but whether he decides to quit could depend on what his rivals are willing to offer - in particular if they will give him legal immunity and let him stay in the country.

Separately, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said on Sunday that the US was not currently considering granting asylum to Musharraf.

'Politics of revenge'

Speculation that Musharraf could be forced into exile heightened with the visit of Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief.

Divisions have also appeared in the ruling coalition with respect to the treason allegations, raising the likelihood of impeachment proceedings.

Sadiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) , headed by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, said legal guarantees were out of the question.

Sharif's party is the second largest in the coalition, and has said Musharraf should be tried for treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death.

"It will be in the interest of the country and the nation to make him an example in accordance with the constitution and the law," Farooq said.

Sherry Rehman, the information minister, and a top PPP member, said that the party "never indulges in the politics of revenge as it wants a stable Pakistan and a sustainable democracy in the country".

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