Islamabad, Aug.18 : The loss of the Pakistan defence establishment's backing is said to have convinced Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to resign from office on Monday.
According to CBS News, while an emotional Musharraf said he wanted to spare the nation from a perilous impeachment battle, the actual development that precipitated the decision to quit office was Musharraf's loss of power within the military.
"The military has been central to this major shift in Pakistan," said one senior western diplomat, who spoke to CBS News on condition of anonymity Monday after Musharraf's announcement.
Last week, senior army officers told CBS News, they had conveyed to the former president that the powerful army would not actively support him.
The message from the army made a fundamental difference to Musharraf in a country where the armed forces have ruled Pakistan for more than half its 61 year existence as an independent state, reports CBS News.
The military was keen to avoid becoming tainted by the possible public humiliation of its former chief of staff.
Pakistan's armed forces have frequently intervened in the country's politics since independence in 1947, including the 1999 coup that brought Musharraf to power. However, in recent days it had moved from its position of keeping open the option of further intervention to one of maintaining strict neutrality in the crisis.
"It's curtains for President Musharraf," a government official was quoted by the Financial Times as saying, citing messages conveyed by senior generals under the command of General Ashfaq Kiyani, the army chief, to Musharraf, over the past two days.
A second government official also confirmed that the messages had been conveyed.
Both spoke off the record, citing the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Military analysts said that news of the military's move to distance itself from Musharraf was not surprising.
"This military is telling President Pervez Musharraf: 'Please step down and avoid further humiliation for yourself and also for the army', " Talat Masood, a retired lieutenant general and respected commentator, said.
"The military has probably concluded that President Musharraf staying on as the president will only cause more divisions in Pakistan."
In Karachi, the heartland of the Pakistan People's party, which heads the government, officials said backroom discussions had begun with the military to find a mutually acceptable successor to Musharraf.
"In public we say the military must remain neutral. But in private, we all know the military is a powerful player and they have to be on board," a PPP leader said.
Western diplomats said the military's stance removed the most formidable source of support for the Pakistani leader.
The country has been ruled by the military for more than half its life as an independent state, making the generals some of the most powerful political figures in Pakistan.
Publicly, the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid e Azam (PML-Q), which provided support to the previous military-backed government, continues to support Musharraf.
People celebrated in the streets of some Pakistani cities as news of the resignation filtered out.
Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi said leaders of the ruling coalition would discuss whether to prosecute Musharraf in court on charges that that were being planned for the impeachment process.
"It is a victory of democratic forces. Today the shadow of dictatorship, that has prevailed for long over this country, that chapter has been closed," Information Minister Sherry Rehman said.