President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday abruptly cancelled a visit to the Beijing Olympics' opening ceremony, amid reports that Pakistan's ruling coalition had held talks on his possible impeachment.
President Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday abruptly cancelled a visit to the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony as Pakistan's ruling coalition held talks on his possible impeachment.
The announcement came as the fragile coalition government, which trounced Musharraf's allies in elections in February, held a second day of meetings focused on how to tackle the US-backed president.
"The foreign office has got information about cancellation of the president's visit," Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammad Sadiq told AFP.
"I cannot tell (you) immediately the reason for it," he said.
Musharraf's spokesman was not immediately available for comment.
But media reports said his decision was prompted by the meetings between coalition leaders Asif Ali Zardari, widower of slain former premier Benazir Bhutto, and ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Musharraf, who seized power in a military coup in 1999, had been scheduled to leave for China on Wednesday morning, and for a Pakistani leader to shelve a visit to the country's closet ally is highly unusual.
Musharraf has resisted growing pressure to quit in recent weeks, saying he was willing to work with the coalition to tackle problems such as rising Islamic militancy and soaring food and fuel prices.
"The cancellation of the China visit by President Musharraf is an important development," said a senior government official who declined to be named.
"Given our special relationship and friendly ties with China, it is unimaginable that a Pakistani leader would cancel his visit -- and that, too, for a very important occasion for our ally China," the official said.
Zardari had also cancelled a planned visit to China, one of Pakistan's main military backers, for the opening of the Olympic Games, said Farhatullah Babar, a spokesman for Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party.
The News, an English language daily, reported that Sharif and Zardari called the talks amid fears that Musharraf himself might strike the first blow by dissolving parliament.
Sharif and Zardari were set to hold a further meeting on Wednesday but Babar would not say if the coalition leaders planned to finalise a decision to impeach Musharraf as reported in local newspapers.
"It is up to the leaders to decide and they could chose to speak to media or issue a joint statement after the meeting," he said.
Asked about Musharraf's decision to cancel his China trip, Babar said: "I am not concerned whether he is going or not, it is up to him."
Sharif's Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) party said, however, that a decision on impeachment was likely.
"The time to take a final decision has come," party spokesman Ahsan Iqbal said after a meeting of the party in the hill resort of Murree, near Islamabad.
"President Pervez Musharraf is trying to harm the democratic process."
The two parties have been split by the twin issues of what to do about Musharraf and how to carry out their pledge to reinstate senior judges sacked by the president under a state of emergency last November.
The rift has caused a sense of paralysis in the government, which is under huge US pressure over its efforts to negotiate with Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants based near the Afghan border.
Asked if the coalition would first restore the judges or impeach Musharraf, Iqbal said: "It is not a question of what the coalition will do first, as both are important issues and two sides of the same coin."
Date created : 2008-08-06