Pakistan Government Moves To Impeach Musharraf Pakistan's governing coalition says it is beginning proceedings to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. The move adds to pressure on Musharraf to resign, but there is no guarantee that the coalition can muster the votes needed for the impeachment to proceed.

Pakistan Government Moves To Impeach Musharraf

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RENEE MONTAGNE, host:

Pakistan's President Musharraf was expecting to be at tonight's opening ceremony of the Olympics, but he's had to cancel because he might be impeached. There have been calls for his impeachment since Pakistan's former top general lost power to a civilian government. Now that coalition civilian government has decided to move on the impeachment threat and the stage may be set for a confrontation. NPR's Philip Reeves reports.

PHILIP REEVES: Less than five months have elapsed since Pakistan's civilian government was sworn in. It's been a rocky period. There've been deep disagreements between the ruling coalition's two main parties; one led by Asif Zardari, the widower of Benazir Bhutto, the other by former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. Now those two men are seeking to set aside their differences by uniting for the first-ever attempt in Pakistan to impeach a president.

Mr. ASIF ZARDARI (Pakistan's People Party): His policies have weakened the federation and eroded the trust of the nation and national institutions.

REEVES: At a packed press conference, Zardari reeled off a list of accusations against President Musharraf over his conduct as Pakistan's military ruler.

Mr. ZARDARI: The economic policies pursued by General Musharraf during the last eight years have brought Pakistan to the brink of a critical economical impasse.

REEVES: With Sharif at his side, Zardari accused Musharraf of seeking to undermine a transition to democracy in Pakistan.

Mr. ZARDARI: In view of the above and his failure to take a vote of confidence from the newly elected assembly, the coalition believes - leadership believes it has become imperative to move to impeachment under the Article 47 against General Musharraf.

REEVES: Zardari said the coalition's decided to begin impeachment proceedings at once, though he gave no details. Impeachment's decided by a vote in both houses of the national parliament. But the coalition's also agreed that on this occasion Pakistan's four provincial assemblies will vote on a resolution demanding that Musharraf seeks a vote of confidence.

Tanvir Ahmad Khan, head of Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies, said this is a tactic to build up the momentum to impeach Musharraf.

Mr. TANVIR AHMAD KHAN (Pakistan's Institute of Strategic Studies): It's a part of their trick to mobilize public opinion against Musharraf, and thereby to disarm him, you know, step by step.

REEVES: There's no absolute guarantee the coalition can muster the two-thirds vote in Parliament needed to impeach Musharraf. Khan thinks it probably can.

Mr. KHAN: I think there are fair chances of it getting through. The mainstream parties do not have the magic number, but there are small units - small groups of flexible alliances and allegiances.

REEVES: But the impeachment process looks likely to be drawn out and complex. It's not clear whether the charges leveled against Musharraf will meet the legal requirements for impeachment, nor is it clear how Musharraf will react. He's under pressure to resign. But, says Tanvir Ahmad Khan, there's also pressure on him to fight on.

Mr. KHAN: I mean, he's not alone. It was a regime. It was a regime that lasted eight years. So there's no dearth of people whose own personal vested interests depend very heavily on Musharraf being around. In fact, without Musharraf they don't add up to very much.

REEVES: The stage is set for a fresh battle over power between Pakistan's political elite, yet many Pakistanis seem to have more pressing concerns.

Among them is Ali Durani(ph), a banker who was this morning to be found having breakfast in a cafe in the capital Islamabad.

Mr. ALI DURANI (Banker): Economically I think they are the first factors.

REEVES: Pakistan faces soaring food and fuel costs, crippling power shortages and the spreading menace of the Islamist militants, issues that some believe now matter more than another bout of political bloodletting.

Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad.

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