Source AP ©

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf decides to resign

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf, under pressure to resign in the face of possible impeachment, planned to address the nation Monday afternoon, his spokesman said.

The spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, would not say if Musharraf would announce his resignation in the speech, expected around 1 p.m. (0700 GMT).

Supporters of the president suggested he would use the speech to rebut accusations against him from the ruling coalition, which has said it will introduce an impeachment motion to Parliament this week.

Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain, leader of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Q party, told a TV channel Monday that the president should "go to the Parliament and respond to the allegations. He will respond, he has said that. And, after that, whatever he decides, whether he resigns or not, he should do it after that."

Tariq Azim, another senior PML-Q member said he did not think it would be a "two-line address that he comes on screen, announces his resignation and says goodbye.

"If that was the case, he could have done it much earlier. It is going to be a very important address in the history of country that is going to have a far-reaching impact in the politics of Pakistan."

Musharraf, a longtime U.S. ally in the war on terror who seized power in a 1999 coup but has been largely sidelined since his rivals won February parliamentary elections, has resisted calls to resign for months. Those calls have mounted in recent days as the new ruling coalition announced it would seek to impeach him.

Qureshi has repeatedly denied rumors that Musharraf was ready to quit.

On Sunday, a committee of the ruling coalition finalized a list of impeachment charges against Musharraf after five days of talks, Information Minister Sherry Rehman said. The charges are expected to accuse Musharraf of violating the constitution and gross misconduct.

Some current and former supporters have suggested that Musharraf might resign in return for guarantees he will not be prosecuted or forced into exile, and officials say Western and Arab emissaries have been in talks with the main parties.

On Monday, however, an official with the second-largest party in the ruling coalition insisted it would not agree to granting Musharraf legal protections.

The party, headed by ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf ousted in his coup, has demanded the president be tried for treason, which carries a possible punishment of death.

"We are saying that Musharraf should be made an example," said Pervaiz Rashed, a close aide to Sharif. "We are saying that Musharraf should be taught a lesson for all crimes he has committed."

Musharraf grew increasingly unpopular through his tenure.

Anger against him spiked in 2007 when he imposed temporary emergency rule, a move he has acknowledged was unconstitutional. He fired dozens of senior judges - further damaging his reputation - to ward off legal challenges to his continued rule as president.

However, he insists that he defeated a conspiracy to derail Pakistan's return to democracy and acted exclusively in the national interest. Although he gave up his dual role as army chief late last year, that did not satisfy his opponents.

With Musharraf's utility fading, Western concerns are less with his ultimate fate than about how the clamor is affecting the halting efforts of the new civilian government against terrorism and gathering economic woes.

"He should tender his resignation, pack up his bags, and go," Sen. Raza Rabbani, a ruling coalition member, told reporters Sunday. "Whatever little moral authority was left has now been completely eroded."

Officials released no specifics of the charges, which still need approval from top coalition chiefs. The coalition insists it will easily secure the required two-thirds majority in a joint sitting of the upper and lower houses of Parliament to oust Musharraf.

Some analysts point to the lack of overt support from either the army or Washington - Musharraf's main props during his eight years in power - in predicting that he will quit.

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice said Sunday the Pakistani president's future was an internal issue. While Musharraf was a "good ally" who "kept his word" on ending military rule, whether he should resign "is a matter for Pakistan to determine," she said.

If Musharraf refuses to quit, he could be the first president in Pakistan's turbulent 61-year history to be impeached.

The Pakistan People's Party, the largest member of the ruling coalition, has taken a milder tone than Sharif's party on the issue of granting Musharraf legal protections if he does agree to resign.

Rehman said the People's Party would shun the "politics of revenge."

"We want stability in the country, we want political stability. We want to make progress in the light of the mandate that has been given to our government," Rehman said.