Saturday, August 9, 2008

Possible political scenarios in Pakistan

Possible political scenarios
Source: Gulf Times
August 9, 2008

President Musharraf
Pakistan’s ruling coalition led by the party of slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto will move to impeach President Pervez Musharraf nearly nine years after he seized power in a military coup. Here are some details of the process and possible political scenarios seen by political analysts and constitutional experts:

Constitutional provisions:
  • Under Pakistan’s constitution, half the members of either house of the parliament, National Assembly and Senate can move a resolution seeking removal of the president on grounds he is physically or mentally unfit or to seek his impeachment for violating the constitution or gross misconduct.
  • The Speaker of the National Assembly within three days of the receipt of the notice for removal or impeachment of the president will transmit the notice to the president.
  • The Speaker shall call the two houses of the parliament to meet in a joint sitting after a week but less than two weeks after the Speaker receives the notice.
  • The joint sitting may investigate the charges against the president.
  • The president shall have the right to appear or send a representative to defend him before the joint sitting.
  • If, after investigation, the joint sitting passes a resolution with a two-thirds majority against the president, he shall cease to hold office immediately.
  • The constitution does not set any timeline for passing a resolution and experts say it may take weeks if the joint sitting decided to investigate the charges.
Coalition strategy:
  • While Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto’s widower and head of the coalition, and his major partner, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, did not set any date for submission of the resolution against Musharraf, a coalition official said the National Assembly is likely to be called to meet on Aug. 11.
  • Likewise, all four provincial assemblies will be called this month and resolutions passed to ask Musharraf to seek a vote of confidence from them, failing which impeachment proceedings will be started against him.
Coalition strength:
  • The four-party coalition requires support of around 295 parliamentarians to get the impeachment motion passed from 442 seats in the combined National Assembly and Senate.
  • The existing strength of the coalition in the parliament is 277.
  • The coalition hopes around 20 parliamentarians from tribal areas, where opposition to Musharraf for his support to the US-led war on terrorism is strong, will support the resolution. They also hope to win support from dissidents among pro-Musharraf parties.
  • The pro-Musharraf parties say the coalition lacks required numbers to impeach Musharraf and there are many dissident members among the coalition, including Makhdoom Amin Fahim, Bhutto’s former top aide who was passed over for the premiership. Intense horse-trading is expected on both sides.

How things could play out:

  • Musharraf may resign before the impeachment motion is moved as he has said previously, though his allies say the the chances of him standing down are remote.
  • Musharraf could use presidential powers to dismiss the government and the parliament and appoint a caretaker government. Analysts say he would need the army’s support.
  • General Ashfaq Kayani, hand-picked by Musharraf to replace him as army chief in November, is seen close to the president but has taken several steps to withdraw the army from the civilian affairs. The army has given no indication whom it will side with.
  • The army may ask Musharraf to dissolve the parliament before resigning himself as was done in 1993 when both the president and prime minister resigned. Analysts say a caretaker government may be installed to oversee new elections within 90 days as provided in the constitution or an army-backed government may be appointed for a year or more, as done in Bangladesh, to weed out tainted politicians before calling the elections.
  • The army may impose martial law though many analysts believe that possibility is remote.–Reuters

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