Musharraf Allies Say Talks Could Lead to Resignation, Legal Immunity

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15 August 2008

Allies of Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf say there are ongoing
talks with his political opponents about allowing Mr. Musharraf to
resign without facing impeachment charges. But VOA's Barry Newhouse
reports from Islamabad that the president's spokesman continues to deny
that Mr. Musharraf plans to step down.

Days before Pakistan's
coalition government says it will reveal several impeachment charges
against Mr. Musharraf, some of the president's allies say there are
ongoing talks between the two sides that could allow Mr. Musharraf to
quietly resign without facing impeachment or criminal charges.

spokesman for the president, Rashid Qureshi, is denying that the
president plans to step down or is seeking a deal for legal immunity.

Senator Mushahid Hussein, a senior leader of the president's Pakistan
Muslim League Q party, confirms in an interview with VOA that there are
talks under way for some sort of compromise agreement. He says "the
next few days will be decisive" in the standoff.

"I don't speak
for the president but I can certainly say there are backchannels
between the presidency and the government which are trying to reach an
amicable settlement - so that the country can move on," said Hussein.

analysts say a drawn out impeachment struggle against the man who has
ruled Pakistan for nearly nine years would dredge up old controversies
and consume the government's attention when the country faces other
serious economic and security problems.
But the coalition
government, which spent months haggling over its policy toward the
unpopular president, last week made unseating Mr. Musharraf its primary

Since then, a series of lopsided no-confidence votes in
the country's four provincial assemblies that included some defections
from traditionally pro-Musharraf parties have eroded the president's
political support.

With the two sides discussing terms under
which Mr. Musharraf could resign, some Pakistani officials say U.S.
diplomats have lobbied for a dignified exit for Mr. Musharraf. The U.S.
embassy insisted the issue is an internal matter for the Pakistani
people to decide.

Senator Mushahid Hussein called one possible
option for Mr. Musharraf, the "Richard Nixon formula," in reference to
the U.S. president who resigned before his likely impeachment in 1974.

variation of that could be seen in Pakistan where perhaps there would
be a quiet resignation, there would not be any impeachment and Mr.
Musharraf would fade quietly into the night to his newly built
residence on the outskirts of Islamabad," he said. "And there would not
be any kind of charges or prosecution afterward. People don't want to
see it as any kind of a blood feud - that's not in the national

So far, members of former Prime Minister Nawaz
Sharif's PML-N party have insisted that the president stand trial for
alleged crimes he has committed while in office even if he resigns.
The stance of the Pakistan People's Party on the issue has been