Loyalists urge Musharraf to fight on as votes stack up against him
14 Aug 2008
Islamabad: August 14, 2008. Supporters of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf are urging him not to resign even though they admit his political foes could have the numbers to remove him.
Celebrations for Pakistan's Independence Day today will be tainted by political uncertainty as the Government proceeds with impeachment of Mr Musharraf.
But Sheikh Waqas Akram, an MP close to the President, told The Age that supporters were urging Mr Musharraf to defend himself against the charges.
"We are telling him to face it and make history, not go resigning," he said. "He should stand and clarify himself to the nation."
Under Pakistan's constitution, Mr Musharraf is entitled to respond to the charges.
Sheikh Waqas, who studied at Griffith University in Queensland, is a member of the Pakistan Muslim League (Q) closely affiliated with Mr Musharraf. He met the President on Monday and said he was in "high spirits".
Sheikh Waqas said the impeachment bid might backfire because of the amount of information the President had on his political foes. "There are very few people in Pakistani history who know as much as President Musharraf knows," he said.
Even so, he admitted the anti-Musharraf forces could get the two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of the Pakistan upper and lower houses needed to remove the President.
"Governments here in Pakistan can always manipulate numbers to do what they want."
Another prominent figure in the PML (Q), Marvi Memon, said the impeachment was a Government attempt to distract attention from the country's many problems.
"We will stand by him, we will fight with him, we will fight for him and of course he won't resign," Ms Memon told Pakistani broadcaster Dawn TV.
However, a series of votes in Pakistan's state parliaments this week indicate that Mr Musharraf has lost the support of many in the PML (Q), a party formed in 2001 specifically to provide him with numbers in parliament.
Impeachment proceedings are expected to start in the National Assembly early next week after a formal "charge sheet" is released. The process could take more than a month.
The arrival in Islamabad of a former British high commissioner to Pakistan, Mark Lyall Grant, has triggered speculation that a deal is being brokered for Mr Musharraf's safe passage out of the country.