ISLAMABAD: President Pervez Musharraf has offered to resign in return for indemnity by parliament for his unconstitutional steps taken on November 3, 2007, sources told The News on Tuesday.
The offer was made during recent rounds of negotiations between the Presidency and the Zardari House on the constitutional package that the Pakistan People’s Party has prepared. “It came through when the Aiwan-i-Sadr realised that the PPP would restore all the judges and clip the presidential powers,” the sources said. A powerless Presidency with the pre-November 3 judges back in the saddle was not an acceptable option for Musharraf.
Hence the offer to step down in return for his support for the passage of the 18th amendment by parliament came through. “Musharraf is demanding a price to agree to the constitutional package and then step down,” the sources said.
However, the PPP is not willing to grant indemnity without taking its pound of flesh. The PPP will grant selective indemnity but to avoid public backlash it wants Musharraf to step down afterwards.
“What steps of Musharraf will be indemnified is not yet finalised but the constitutional amendment will have a pardon for Musharraf,” the source claimed, “but I assure you that the judges would be back.”
The source, well connected with the senior PPP leadership, said the party was playing its cards quite shrewdly and would negotiate a tough deal with Musharraf. Musharraf’s spokesman, Rashid Qureshi a retired military official, lost his temper when Geo broke this news. He contacted Geo and expressed his desire to give reaction.
Despite his apparent anxiety, he surprisingly did not utter a word about the issue of indemnity, Musharraf’s offer to resign and the quid pro quo which was the main focus of Geo’s report. Qureshi, who was promoted by Musharraf to the rank of major general by sidestepping the procedure mandatory for all other brigadiers to get promotion, sounded quite agitated with the news of Musharraf’s offer to resign in return for indemnity. He has been close to Musharraf since the latter was corps commander at Mangla.
Repeating his uncouth remarks about the draft of the constitutional package and the name of the reporter, Qureshi made sure to evade the crux of the whole issue. It was learnt that the PPP has offered Musharraf a win-win solution because if he does not step down, the constitutional petition challenging his eligibility as a candidate for president would come up for hearing in front of the restored judiciary.
“In such a scenario Malik Qayyum, who was sacked as a judge for corruption, would not be able to defend Musharraf’s case against a capable lawyer Aitzaz Ahsan,” sources said. It was learnt that the PPP wanted to bag the whole credit for the restoration of the judges by sidelining the PML-N because it suited the party politically. Hence Zardari did not restore the judges within the deadline given in the Murree Accord.
The PML-N has not yet been taken into confidence by the PPP, which is planning to muster a two-third majority in Parliament by excluding PML-N. On the other hand, the PML-N would not support the passage of 18th amendment if it gave indemnity to Musharraf for his November 3 actions.
“We would accept the constitutional package only if it is acceptable to the judiciary, lawyers fraternity, civil society and the general public,” a senior PML-N leader said. According to the constitutional package, the chief justice’s tenure would be restricted to four or five years with the judges’ retirement age going up to 67 or 68 years. The suo moto powers of the Chief Justice will also be handed over to a committee of three Supreme Court judges.