Islamabad, Aug.17 : A well known political and defence analyst, Dr Hasan-Askari Rizvi, is of the view that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf still has options to exit gracefully from office.
In an analysis on the prevailing political conundrum in Pakistan, which appears in the Daily Times, Dr. Rizvi says the country "is undergoing a major political transformation from a centralized authoritarian Musharraf-dominated political order to democratically elected people-oriented governance."
He further goes on to say that Musharraf missed an opportunity to gracefully quit when his loyalists were rejected in the February 2008 elections, but adds that "He can still exercise damage control by stepping down before the joint session of the parliament takes up the impeachment resolution."
"This will enable him to exit with some grace and save the political process from internal strains and uncertainty," he adds.
He warns that any confrontation on the impeachment situation will not save Musharraf from ouster, but will cause greater tension in the political system and drag him into more controversies.
In the analysis, he opines that the impeachment of a president "is the exclusive domain of the two houses of the parliament in a joint session after notice is given to the Speaker of the National Assembly or Chairman of the Senate as set out in Article 47 of the Constitution."
He says that the grounds for initiating impeachment as stated in the Constitution are physical and mental incapacity, violation of the Constitution, and gross misconduct, and does not rule out the possibility of Musharraf personally appearing "before the joint session to respond to the charges or do so through his representative." To prove he is not suffering from neither of the above.
He further says that the two houses of parliament cannot meet separately to discuss the impeachment resolution. All impeachment proceedings have to take place in the joint session or in a committee, and the impeachment resolution has to be passed by two-thirds of the total strength of the joint session. Only then will the president cease to hold office.
Pro-Musharraf political circles have attempted to create a misleading impression that the matter would not end with the approval of impeachment by parliament because they can go to the Supreme Court to challenge the decision.
These proceedings cannot be challenged in any court of law because the Constitution gives impeachment powers exclusively to parliament.
Further, whatever is said or done on the floor of the parliament has immunity from judicial challenge with the exception of the superior judiciary's power to review ordinary laws, ordinances and executive actions on constitutional grounds. Nor can the judiciary stop parliament from performing its constitutional duties.
He says that Musharraf is not expected to get any political support from the United States, the European Union or Great Britain - all of whom relied heavily on him in the past for pursuing their counter-terrorism agenda.
Now with the failure of Musharraf to change his political ways and the decision of the ruling coalition to initiate impeachment, the US and the EU are treating this as Pakistan's internal matter and would support any decision taken in accordance with the Constitution. The US may be inclined to seek an honourable exit for Musharraf.
The Pakistan Army too appears non-partisan on the matter. The top brass wants this matter settled in accordance with the Constitution.
He opines that the army wants the political leaders to fully own the war on terrorism. Naturally, this will not be possible if the former sides with Musharraf and acts in a manner that weakens the political forces. Therefore, the triumph of the political forces in the current confrontation serves the military's interests, at least for the time being.
He concludes by saying that Musharraf and his associates in the presidency need to make a realistic assessment of the situation, given that "his support base is completely eroded."
"Musharraf can turn his removal into a messy affair but this will not salvage his position. He needs to make the much needed move of bowing to public opinion. His civilian and military friends, who have no personal axe to grind, need to advise him to opt for a graceful exit rather than to go through the impeachment process," Rizvi says.