(AFP) – Aug 16, 2008
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief dashed to Pakistan for talks with the government over its plans to impeach President Pervez Musharraf, a senior official in Islamabad said Saturday.
The visit of Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz came as a minister from the ruling coalition pressed Musharraf to stand down within two days and avoid putting the country through a destabilising impeachment battle.
"Yes, Saudi intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz did visit Pakistan on Friday and met senior government officials," a senior coalition official told AFP on condition of anonymity.
"The main purpose of the visit was to find an amicable solution to the (Musharraf impeachment) issue and that no one should become a laughing stock," the official said.
Asked what solution the coalition regarded as acceptable, the official said that "Musharraf should step down" but that it was "really up to Musharraf" if his plans included exile to Saudi Arabia.
Musharraf's spokesman said on Friday that the president would not step down, but allies and coalition officials said that talks were underway to secure a deal that could see him quit to avoid impeachment or prosecution.
Allies of the president have said that he wants to remain in Pakistan if he quits but coalition officials say that it could cause further trouble if he does not go abroad.
Other options include going to Turkey or the United States.
"Saudi Arabia is a very strong ally of both Pakistan and the US and the visit was a sincere and friendly effort to interact with all and sundry to settle the issue," the senior coalition official said.
"The Saudis have very strong bonds of friendship with us. President Pervez Musharraf has also been very close to Riyadh during his rule," the official added.
Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said Musharraf had to make up his mind soon.
"President Pervez Musharraf has to take a decision about resignation by today or tomorrow as there is no room for any delay," Qureshi told reporters in the central city of Multan.
"If he fails to decide on tendering his resignation by today or tomorrow, the process of impeachment will commence."
The ruling coalition announced plans on August 7 to impeach Musharraf. It said on Friday that it had finalised impeachment charges against him and would file them in parliament next week.
Getting Musharraf to jump first is a better option for the coalition because it would have to rely on the support of independents and defectors from his camp to get the two-thirds parliamentary majority to impeach him.
But disagreements over an amnesty for Musharraf if he quits have surfaced between the Pakistan People's Party of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, the leader of the coalition, and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif's party.
Sharif said earlier this week that Musharraf had violated the constitution and should get "no safe exit".
Ishaq Dar, a senior member of Sharif's party and of the committee which drafted the impeachment charges, said the issue was still up in the air.
"If the president resigns, the coalition government will look into the (amnesty) subject," he told AFP.
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