President Musharraf cancels trip to China as impeachment looms
Zahid Hussain in Islamabad, From Times Online August 6, 2008
Pakistan’s embattled president Musharraf has abruptly cancelled his planned visit to China, as opponents in the ruling coalition move to impeach him.
He was to attend opening ceremony of Beijing Olympics and meet Chinese leaders during his two day visit.
Mohammed Sadiq, a Pakistan foreign ministry spokesman confirmed that the visit was called off, but did not give any reason. The announcement came as the president's opponents met in Islamabad to decide on his impeachment.
The twin issues of President Musharraf's removal and the restoration of Supreme Court judges who were dismissed by the president last November during a brief period of emergency rule have over-shadowed the four month old coalition government . Asif Ali Zardari, the head of the Pakistan Peoples Party and Nawaz Sharif , the leader of the Pakistan Muslim League( N) faction, which are part of the ruling alliance, agreed yesterday to move against the president. A final decision in this regard is expected to be announced after the two leaders meet again on Thursday.
Khawaja Asif, a spokesman for Mr. Sharif said the coalition parties have the two thirds majority required to remove the president.
“We have the sufficient numbers" he declared. But the president’s supporters denied the claim. Observers said the impeachment move could further destablise the country which is facing severe economic problem and rising Islamic insurgency.
A former General and a close U.S. ally in the global war on terror, Mr. Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999. He stepped down as army chief in December 2007 after he was elected as president for another five years in a controversial election. He became hugely unpopular after he imposed a temporary emergency rule in the country in November 2007 and sacked the independent minded chief justice.
His allies were defeated in an election in February that resulted in a civilian coalition government led by the party of the late Benazir Bhutto, a two-time prime minister who was assassinated while campaigning last December.
Despite the loss of parliamentary support, Mr. Musharraf has resisted pressure to quit, and has insisted that he was willing to work with the new civilian government.
He has repeatedly said he will not use presidential powers to dismiss the parliament, but Pakistani political circles are rife with speculation that he is manouevring towards this scenario on grounds that the civilian government has proved inept.
Political analysts said the impeachment move could further destablise the country and force the army to act, although the army leadership has so far kept itself out of the fray.
Political uncertainty has badly affected the economy with inflation reaching a record high. Investors have harboured doubts over whether the civilian coalition government has the ability to arrest the decline. Rising Islamic militancy which has gripped northern areas also threaten to tear apart the country.