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Musharraf calls for reconciliation amid impeachment threat


Latest update : 2008-08-15

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has called for a political reconciliation as the country marks the 61st anniversary of its independence. Musharraf made his first public comments since the government launched a process to impeach him.

ISLAMABAD, Aug 14 (Reuters) - Pakistan's President Pervez
Musharraf, under mounting pressure to resign, called on Thursday
for political stability and reconciliation to tackle economic
and security problems.

Musharraf, speaking in an televised Independence Day
address, did not refer to a plan to impeach him drawn up by a
coalition government led by the party of assassinated former
Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

In his first public comments since the coalition announced
its impeachment plan last week, the former army chief and firm
U.S ally also did not refer to the calls for him to step down.

"If we want to put our economy on the right track and fight
terrorism then we need political stability. Unless we bring
political stability, I think we can't fight them properly,"
Musharraf said.

Musharraf has been at the centre of a political crisis since
early last year that has heightened concerns in the United
States and among its allies about the stability of Pakistan, a
nuclear-armed Muslim state that is also a hiding place for al
Qaeda leaders.

Speculation has been rife that Musharraf, who seized power
in a 1999 coup, would quit rather than face impeachment, though
his spokesman has consistently denied that.

"Political stability, in my view, can only be brought
through a reconciliation approach as opposed to confrontation,"
Musharraf said. "Differences should be buried."

Coalition officials were not immediately available for
comment but Musharraf's appeal would appear unlikely to check
what they call a "tidal wave" of opposition to him.

A growing number of politicians, including some old allies,
have been calling on him to face a vote of confidence or be

The showdown is unnerving investors, with the rupee setting
a new low of around 75.05/15 to the dollar and stocks hovering
near two-year lows. Referring to the rupee, Musharraf said the
flight of capital had to be stopped.



Security worries are compounding the gloom.

Musharraf spoke just after midnight, when Pakistan marked
the anniversary of its creation in 1947 upon the partition of
British-ruled India.

Shortly before noisy celebrations began across the country,
a suicide bomb attack on police killed seven people in the
eastern city of Lahore, police said.

Hundreds of people, including many members of the security
forces have been killed in a wave of attacks since last year.

As the pressure mounts on Musharraf a crucial question is
how the army, which has ruled for more than half the country's
history, will react. Coalition leaders said on Tuesday the army
would not intervene to back its old boss.

Army commander General Ashfaq Kayani, who Musharraf chose to
succeed him when he gave up command last year, did not refer to
the turmoil in an Independence Day address to cadets but said
the army would "always rise to the call of the nation".

Coalition officials hope the president, isolated since his
allies were routed in February elections, will resign before he
is impeached. But they are drawing up a accusations against him.

Analysts say it could take weeks before a vote in the
bicameral parliament.

Musharraf has anchored Pakistan's backing for the U.S.-led
campaign against Islamist militancy since 2001. The new
government has vowed to maintain support even though the policy
is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis.

The United States has urged the government to focus on a
deteriorating economy and spreading militancy but has not
commented on the impeachment, saying it is a Pakistani issue.

Musharraf's popularity began to evaporate last year when he
clashed with the judiciary and imposed emergency rule to ensure
another term.

Date created : 2008-08-14