It is just a matter of days for Musharraf : Paper

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Islamabad, Feb 24 (UNI) Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf was considering to step down in the face of a massive defeat at the hands of his bitter opponents-- the PPP and the PML-N-- in the February 18 polls who may impeach him after forming a coalition government.

The Sunday Telegraph quotes a close aide of the beleagured former military ruler as saying that the President believed he had run out of options.

''He has already started discussing the exit strategy for himself,'' the paper quoted the aide as saying.

''I think it is now just a matter of days and not months because he would like to make a graceful exit on a high,'' he said.

Officials close to the President said the former army chief had considered resigning immediately after the election results were known but had been told by loyalists that his sudden departure may precipitate the crisis.

Besides, the PML-Q-- the party backed by the President-- failed to forge an agreement with Pakistan People's Party Co-Chairman Asif Ali Zardari in an attempt to keep him away from former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Gen (retd) Musharraf in a bloodless coup in October 1999.

Another cause of worry for the former military ruler is that the PML-N was hell bent on reinstating about 60 Supreme Court judges who were sacked by Gen Musharraf in November when they were about to decide on the constitutionality of his re-election as President.

Senior aides to the President claim that he was honestly trying to work with whoever gets in the seat of power and did not want a confrontation with the government-in-waiting.

''He may have made many mistakes, but he genuinely tried to build the country and he doesn't want to destroy it just for the sake of his personal office,'' an official close to the president was quoted by the paper as saying.

Gen Musharraf who stepped down as army chief late last year saw his popularity nosedive in the face of a spate of suicide attacks, rising inflation and power crisis.

A coalition of the anti-Musharraf parties-- the PPP, PML(N) and ANP-- would govern with 211 MPs, just short of the 228 needed for the two thirds majority that would allow them to launch impeachment proceedings against the President.

UNI XC YA AS1302

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