Aug 8, 2008
Pakistan’s governing coalition nearly has the sufficient parliamentary votes to remove Pervez Musharraf from the presidency. But meeting the required threshold of 295 votes will involve horse trading with smaller parties and independents, as well as maintaining internal party discipline. Musharraf can use a number of constitutional powers to remain in office. However, he could also resign before the impeachment process begins–especially if the Pakistan Army decides impeachment would harm its own interests.
Impeachment Proceedings Could Extend Through August into September:
- The governing coalition is set to initiate the impeachment process late next week by presenting a charge sheet to the National Assembly speaker of offenses it alleges Musharraf committed.
- A joint session of parliament will then convene within 8-17 days.
- During the joint session, the charges against the president will be investigated collectively or by a select committee. Musharraf or a designated representative can offer a defense.
- Finally, the joint session will vote, serving as a jury. A 2/3 majority or 295 votes is required for conviction. If this threshold is met, then Musharraf ceases to be president immediately. If it is not, Musharraf remains as president.
- There is no time limit on the investigation/deliberation period.
Pro-Impeachment Forces Face Surmountable Obstacles:
- Possibility of Internal Dissent: The governing coalition currently has 264 parliamentary members. Some dissidents, including the PPP’s Amin Fahim, have opposed Musharraf’s impeachment. As a result, there is the challenge of maintaining party voting discipline.
- Small Parties and Independents Critical: The four party governing coalition claims the support of parliamentrians from the Federally-Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). The FATA parliamentrians combined with other independents and small party members (e.g. PkMAP, Jamaat-i Islami), constitute a pool of 41 possible supporters. Together, they could raise the pro-impeachment vote up to 305, providing a cushion for internal dissent.
- Deal Making Could Create Problems: Securing the votes of non-governing coalition parliamentrians could require compromises on other critical issues. Prior to a vote, this might require intensive bargaining and the possibility of concession related to the war on terror, restoration of the deposed judges, and the autonomy of Balochistan. Subsequently, such concessions could affect the coalition government’s relations with Washington as well as Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment.
Musharraf Has Five Options:
- Prior to the Impeachment Proceedings: Musharraf can avoid impeachment by resigning before the process begins, perhaps as part of a deal with the coalition government. Also, he can choose more confrontational measures: dissolving the National Assembly or imposing emergency rule, which would prevent the start of the impeachment process.
- After the Start of the Impeachment Proceedings: Musharraf can permit the impeachment process to proceed, as he has indicated he will do. He has the choice of accepting a parliamentary vote in or against his favor. Alternatively, Musharraf can appeal a conviction to the Supreme Court, as per the recommendations of his legal advisers, Malik Qayyum and Sharifuddin and Abdul Hamid Pirzada.
Kayani’s Indirect Intervention Possible:
- Zardari Provides a Window of Opportunity for the Army to Intervene: The governing coalition has not formally released its charge sheet against Musharraf. During his press conference on Thursday, PPP-Co Chairman Asif Zardari appeared careful to criticize Musharraf without implicating the army in any wrong doing. There was no mention of the missing persons, the insurgency in Balochistan, and the Lal Masjid incident. If Musharraf were to be prosecuted for such offenses, then the same could be potentially done for other army officers–perhaps even Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, who was previously the ISI chief. It seems as if Zardari has provided the army with an opportunity–prior to the issue of a formal charge sheet–to decide whether or not it can absorb the potential challenges stemming from Musharraf’s impeachment proceedings.
- Kayani’s First Great Crisis: Impeachment proceedings could open up the Pakistan Army’s role in Balochistan, the Red Mosque incident, and the overall war on terror. Furthermore, it would be the first time a former army chief of staff faced trial or even punishment. Many rightists would like to see Musharraf be punished by death for treason. The potential of a former army chief received imprisonment or even death does not bode well for Gen. Kayani, who seeks to restore the institution’s morale and corporate integrity. But, at the same time, many in Pakistan’s military-intelligence establishment see a recent chain of events designed to neutralize Pakistan’s military and intelligence–particularly the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Recent unsubstantiated allegations of the ISI’s role in the Indian Kabul embassy attack are an implicit targeting of Gen. Kayani, ISI Chief Lt. Gen. Nadeem Taj, and by extension his relative and ex-boss Pervez Musharraf. If the army sees Musharraf as the glue holding the dam together, they could stand by him to prevent a deluge. In the end, Gen. Kayani must decide whether his army and country are better off with or without Musharraf. If he decides the latter, then he could ask Musharraf to resign and help him secure indemnity.
Why’s Bilal Musharraf in Karachi?
- Musharraf’s U.S.-based son, Bilal, is in Karachi. He met today with renown humanitarian Abdul Sattar Edhi. But is his Pakistan visit connected to his father’s political fate? Has Musharraf built a home for himself in Karachi? Or will he joining his son back to the U.S? If Musharraf resigns, it is highly likely he will stay in Pakistan and receive permanent military security. For all his flaws, he is not one to run off to a foreign land.
If Musharraf Goes, Who Will Succeed Him?
- If and when Musharraf resigns or is impeached, the race to succeed Musharraf will begin. Constitutionally, Senate Chairman Muhammad Mian Soomro would replace him temporarily. Indirect elections, via an electoral college of all national and provincial legislative bodies, would choose the next president. Potential candidates include Salmaan Taseer (who would be palatable to the PPP and establishment, but not the PML-N) and Asif Zardari. The latter would be foolish to seek the presidency. It would be seen as a blatant power grab and all arrows would be pointed toward him.
- A National Hero for the Presidency: The best candidate for the presidency could be the man Musharraf’s son just met — Abdul Sattar Edhi. No Pakistani is more beloved than him, it seems. He and his wife have selflessly served Pakistan for decades. Such a man is worthy of the presidency. Presidential powers should be reduced, but Edhi should be tasked with the sole responsibility of poverty alleviation and reduction. Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari should prove that they are changed men by donating $100 million each to a Poverty Reduction Fund, administered by President Edhi. Other looters and absconders–including Musharraf’s banker cronies–should also donate the money they have stolen from Pakistan to this fund, perhaps in return for amnesty. But a time in which Pakistan’s masses are suffocated by massive inflation and unemployment is not appropriate for Sharif and Zardari to celebrate. They must repay their dues to the country they looted.