London, Aug.18 : Reacting to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf's decision to resign from office, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said on Monday that a critical period in Pakistan's history had come to an end.
Appealing to Pakistan's political leaders to "come together" to ensure the new government stays on course with economic and security policy, and calling for an early" election of a successor to Musharraf, Miliband was quoted by The News as saying: "The announcement... by President Musharraf that he is standing down as president brings to a close a critical period in Pakistan's history and its relations with the UK and other countries."
"Pakistan is a vital friend of the UK and it is essential... that it has a strong and democratic government with a clear mandate and programme for thoroughgoing reform of its social, political and economic structures," he added.
He also praised the "significant dividends" of Musharraf's time in office, including on the economic front, in fighting terrorism, tackling corruption and promoting dialogue with long-time foe India.
"But reform depends above all on legitimacy, and that is why the UK has been at pains to stress the importance for Pakistan of strong institutions rather than strong individuals, and why we believe a strong democracy is key. The responsibilities on political leaders in Pakistan are now significant. They need to come together to ensure that the recently elected government carries forward an economic and security agenda consistent with the long-term interests of the Pakistani people," Miliband said.
Britain, he said, would remain "strongly committed" to Pakistan, notably through aid but also through stronger security cooperation with the new government.
"I look forward to the early election of a new president in Pakistan to take forward the important shared work that binds our two countries together," he added.
Meanwhile, the Daily Times has quoted the country's former Parliamentary Affairs Minister, Dr. Sher Afghan, as saying that Article 48(2) of the Constitution already provides immunity to the president.
The article says that "the president is not answerable to any court for the exercise of power and performance of functions of their respective offices for any act done or purported to be done in the exercise of those powers and performance of those functions."