Monday, August 18, 2008

What a real change in Congress can bring. America should be ashamed.

Musharraf says he will resign Pakistan presidency

(CNN) -- Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation Monday after weeks of pressure to relinquish power.

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf has until now stubbornly resisted pressure to quit.

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf has until now stubbornly resisted pressure to quit.

Musharraf told the nation in a televised address that he would step down -- nearly nine years after he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

"I don't want the people of Pakistan to slide deeper and deeper into uncertainty," Musharraf said.

"For the interest of the nation, I have decided to resign as president," he said. "I am not asking for anything. I will let the people of Pakistan decide my future." Video Watch Musharraf resign »

Musharraf has been a keen ally of the West in the fight on terror, receiving billions in military aid from the U.S. and launching attacks on militant groups near the country's border with Afghanistan.

He was expected to turn in his resignation to parliament Monday.

"It will be accepted, there is no second opinion about that," said Iqbal Zaffar Jhagra, the secretary general of the junior partner in the ruling coalition, the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N).

Musharraf quit as the ruling coalition was taking steps to impeach him.

Local media reports said he had been granted "safe passage" out of the country.

Until now, Musharraf, 65, had resisted pressure to resign. But his power had eroded since parties opposed to his rule swept to victory in February's parliamentary elections.

Musharraf spent a large part of his speech delivering a state-of-the-union style list of Pakistan's "accomplishments" under his rule. He contrasted it with what he called the deteriorating economic situation now.

"After the elections, the nation wanted solutions from the new government," he said. "But the politicians could not do so. A personal vendetta was started." View a timeline of Musharraf's time in power »

A coalition committee spent last week compiling a list of charges against Musharraf including corruption, economic mismanagement and violating the constitution.

Pakistan's four provincial assemblies called on the president to give up power. Parliament was expected to consider an impeachment motion Monday or Tuesday.

"I am confident that not a single charge can stand against me," Musharraf said. "I have not done anything for my personal gain. Whatever I have done, I have done it for Pakistan."

Faisal Kapadia, a commodities trader in Karachi who runs a blog about Pakistan called Deadpan Thoughts, said Musharraf's decision would get a mixed reaction.

"Leading Pakistan is not an easy task, and anyone doing it comes under a lot of criticism," he said.

"In the start, most Pakistanis were for him. And he still has some supporters -- especially because the new government, which promised to do things differently, has failed to do much in the past 100 days in power."

Musharraf grabbed power in 1999. He was serving as military chief when then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif dismissed him, setting off a confrontation.

As Musharraf was returning from an overseas visit in October 1999, Sharif refused to allow the commercial airliner with 200 passengers on board to land.

Within hours the army had deposed Sharif in a bloodless coup, and the plane was allowed to touch down with only 10 minutes of fuel left.

Musharraf was welcomed by a nation on the brink of economic ruin.

"I think at this point, his intentions were good," said Lt. Gen. Talat Masood, a political analyst. "He wanted to serve the country and to be different."

During his rule, Pakistan attained respectable growth rates and established a generally favorable investment climate.

Along with that came a growing middle class, a more aggressive media, and a more assertive judiciary.

"He brought parliamentary reforms. He brought women into the parliament," said Ahmed Bilal Mehboob, director of the Pakistan Institute of Legislative Development and Transparency.

But, analysts say, Musharraf never lost his military mindset.

"He in a way, always believed in a unity of command, a very centralized command, which means his command, in fact," said Masood.

After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, Musharraf found himself on the frontline of the 'war on terror.'

Pakistan had supported the Taliban during the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan in the 1980s.

But after the 2001 attacks, Musharraf aligned himself with the U.S. to help rout the fundamentalist Islamic movement.

Washington gave Musharraf billions in aid as he vowed to deprive the militants of the sanctuary they had established along the country's border with Afghanistan.

He cast himself as indispensable -- to the West and to Pakistan, analysts said.

To Pakistanis he sold himself as the man who could deliver peace with India, a country with which Pakistan has fought three wars. To the West, he was the man to safeguard the country's nuclear arsenal.

However, Musharraf's popularity began to plummet last year following the March suspension of Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The move triggered protests and accusations that he was trying to influence the Supreme Court's ruling on whether he could run for another five-year term.

Chaudhry was reinstated but the damage was done.

"Undoubtedly, that was the catalyst," Masood said. "This is where he went wrong, and he underestimated the value of democracy."

Four months later, in July 2007, Pakistani security forces seized the Red Mosque in the capital city Islamabad.

The raid, intended to rout Islamic extremists who hoped to establish a Taliban-style rule in the capital, killed more than 100 people. A raft of suicide bombings followed.

In October, Musharraf was re-elected president by a parliament critics said was stacked with his supporters. Opposition parties filed a challenge.

The next month, he declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judge again and blacked out independent TV outlets.

Under pressure from the West, he later lifted the emergency and promised elections in January. Video Watch a PPP leader discuss opposition to Musharraf »

He allowed Sharif, the prime minister he deposed, to return from exile. He also let in another political foe, Benazir Bhutto. She, too, had been a prime minister, and led the Pakistan People's Party.

However, in December, the country was plunged into further turmoil when Bhutto was killed at a rally in Rawalpindi.

Musharraf's government and the CIA contend the killing was orchestrated by Baitullah Mehsud, a leader of the Pakistani Taliban with ties to al Qaeda. But nationwide polls found that a majority of Pakistanis believe Musharraf's government was complicit in the assassination.

Meanwhile, several other factors compounded Musharraf's declining popularity: a shortage of essential food items, power cuts, and a skyrocketing inflation.

Original article posted here.

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