London, Aug 15 : It is now widely believed in Islamabad that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has decided to step down and that a deal has been brokered between the Presidency and the coalition government to ensure a safe exit to the beleaguered President.
A close aide of Musharraf at the Presidency reportedly conceded that he has decided to step down in order to avoid a parliamentary impeachment that was likely to begin on Monday.
On the other hand, a senior Pakistani government official also said that a deal had been brokered between President Musharraf and members of the newly-elected coalition government, with the Army playing a key role in the agreement since the Army is not in favour of bringing about any embarrassment to him.
"The President will neither be impeached nor prosecuted on any charges. He will try and stay in Pakistan," the Financial Times quoted the official as saying.
Government officials said Musharraf had been advised by some of his closest friends to resign before Monday, when formal impeachment proceedings are expected to begin in parliament. His demand that he be allowed to retire to his farm in Islamabad and that there be no moves to prosecute him once out of office appeared to have been the main stumbling block.
"The Army does not want President Musharraf to be insulted and the generals want both of the president's demands to be met," said a senior government official on Thursday ahead of reports of the 'deal'.
But, Musharraf's position has been weakened by reports that the powerful Pakistani military, which he led as Army chief of staff until November last year, had withdrawn its support.
At the time that impeachment proceedings were first mooted last week, some form of intervention was still seen as a possibility by the army. However, they have since retreated to a position of strict neutrality on the issue. "President Musharraf has lost his last card. The Army's support might have made a difference to his future," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political commentator.