President Pervez Musharraf resigned from his office on Monday under immense political pressure but apparently succeeded in extracting a very favourable safe-exit deal, which may allow him to stay in Pakistan without any impeachment, charges or trials for all his acts of omission and commission during his nine-year rule.
“I am resigning from the office of the president for the sake of the country and its people,” announced Musharraf in a grim tone at a hurriedly arranged hour-long televised address to the nation on Monday afternoon.
In view of the mounting pressure by the ruling coalition to impeach him, Pervez Musharraf chose to bow out to save his skin from being held accountable for his nine-year misrule and secure indemnity instead of facing the charges. He turned tail at the end of the day even though he has been boasting for quite a long time that his would be the last punch.
As the country broke into celebrations with dancing on the streets, the Chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who arrived from London on Monday told the media: “The biggest hurdle in the way of democracy has been removed. The dreams of my mother (Shaheed Benazir Bhutto) have come true.”
With jubilant supporters of the ruling coalition taking to the streets and many offering prayers at the Constitution Avenue on his departure, Musharraf took his time before resigning, as he recalled his so-called achievements and lavishly praised himself and his eight years 10 months of misrule as an absolute ruler.
“I am sending my resignation to the Speaker National Assembly, as I am stepping down after consulting my legal advisers and close political supporters,” said Musharraf, who left the Aiwan-e-Sadr after handing over to his successor, Chairman Senate and now acting President Mohammadmian Soomro.
Touted as a commando who never quits, Musharraf proved he was not much of a commando, as he did not face the mounting political pressures of a strong parliamentary democracy. “This is not a time to show bravado but to get serious as the country’s dignity is at stake,” said Musharraf.
In his speech Musharraf did not give any details of where he would stay and whether he was flying out of Pakistan, although reports of a plane waiting for him at Chaklala Airport had not been denied by any official quarter.
But he received a formal guard of honour at the Presidency, shook hands with his staff and handed over the post to Senate Chairman Mohammadmian Soomro. As details of the deal were not revealed by the government or the coalition parties, speculation grew that while in Pakistan Musharraf may be tried for his crimes against Pakistan and democracy.
Many top leaders of the government did not rule out the possibility of Musharraf facing trials of various nature – all serious. In hindsight, there are reports that Musharraf stepped down after receiving assurances from both outside and inside the country that he would not be put behind bars and face trial.
With the Pakistan Army and its chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani rightly deciding not to interfere in the democratic process, the guard of honour and an official farewell meant the Army was determined to protect him from any possible humiliation.
Musharraf said he was resigning in the best interest of the nation and to save the country from further destabilisation. He also dismissed what he described as false allegations being levelled against him by the coalition government, saying that he was neither afraid of the charges against him, nor shy to face these through impeachment.
Musharraf said: “For me it is always Pakistan first”, adding that the politics of confrontation must come to an end and instead a policy of reconciliation must be pursued. He stressed that immediate measures be taken to arrest the economic downturn and said the nation has the resilience to withstand any challenge.
He, however, maintained: “No charge-sheet can stand against me. Not even a single charge can be proven against me as I have full trust in Allah Almighty and I did everything with the belief of Pakistan first.”
Musharraf said it was the government’s right to initiate the process of impeachment against him and he had the right to defend himself. “Impeachment is their right and to face it is my right,” he said.
He said he was leaving with the satisfaction that he did his best with honesty and responsibility. Defending his performance in all areas of governance during his tenure, he said he took the right decisions to uplift the economy and empower people. He listed his achievements in health, education and the social sectors, besides the war on terror. “We held elections twice. The Senate, National Assembly and local governments, all completed their terms. This is the essence of democracy”.
He said: “I publicly announced support to the government and offered to share all my experience with them to help address the complex issues it was confronting. However, the coalition considered me the problem and not the solution.”
Agencies add: “Whether I win or lose, the nation must lose,” Musharraf said while passionately defending his nine-year record in office. “The honour and dignity of the country will be affected and in my view, the honour of the office of president will also be affected.”
An emotional Musharraf said he wanted to spare Pakistan from a dangerous power struggle with opponents vowing to impeach him. He said he was satisfied that all he had done “was for the people and for the country.”
“I hope the nation and the people will forgive my mistakes,” Musharraf said in a televised address, much of which was devoted to defending his record.Pervez Musharraf said he now leaves his future in the hands of the people.
“I leave my future in the hands of the people,” said Musharraf, who opted for resignation instead of facing the charges against him.Musharraf who insisted that no charge could be proved against him, asked the people to ignore his mistakes if any.
“To err is human. I hope that people will ignore my shortcomings if any,” Musharraf said in a sombre tone. The president said he pursued a reconciliatory approach and there was nothing personal or even a hint of personal vendetta since the new government took over.
“Certain vested interests began an atmosphere of confrontation and of vendetta; they blamed me of hatching conspiracies from the Aiwan-e-Sadr.”He said free, fair, transparent elections were held on Feb 18 and participation of all parties was ensured.
“Had it been a conspiracy, we would not have done it,” Musharraf said.He said the stock exchange plunged, dollar rose to Rs77, investors are fleeing the country, money is going out, and no new investment is coming.
President Musharraf said owing to the increased industrial and economic growth the demand for electricity rose, and admitted that the power generation capacity did not match it. He said over 3,000 MW electricity generation was added, but it was inadequate to meet the demand.
“Whosoever says that our policies for the last nine years were faulty and unsatisfactory, should not damage Pakistan,” he said.President Pervez Musharraf said it was now time to “forget about the past and focus on the future. The government should find solutions to the problems and take the country forward.”
Chairman Senate Muhammadmian Soomro later took over as Acting President, after the resignation tendered by President Pervez Musharraf was accepted.Sources said that Muhammadmian Soomro was brought back from Karachi to Islamabad to assume the office of the president.