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Musharraf Seeks Immunity-Resignation Trade


Now, to another country where people are trying to figure out what's really going on, Pakistan. Here's what we know: the parties in the country's ruling coalition are moving to impeach President Pervez Musharraf. We also know talks have been going on about a deal to let Musharraf quit rather than face impeachment. But that's about all we know for sure.

There have been some reports that Musharraf could resign in the next few days, though his spokesman says Musharraf's staying put.

NPR's Philip Reeves is in Pakistan's capital of Islamabad trying to figure this all out. And, Phil, is Musharraf really about to quit?

PHILIP REEVES: Lots of conditions are going to have to be satisfied before Musharraf goes. It's very unlikely that he's going to go unless he gets guarantees that he'll be secure and most importantly, unless he gets a guarantee of immunity against prosecution.

One problem is how you ensure such a guarantee is cast iron in a place like Pakistan, where agreements and even laws have often been ignored. It's believed Musharraf wants to be allowed to stay in Pakistan and accorded the honor and protocol appropriate to a retired president.

There's another problem, though. Some within the ruling coalition moving to impeach Musharraf are against giving him immunity. These are notably members of the party led by Nawaz Sharif, the former prime minister, who you remember Musharraf deposed in a coup; an archenemy, therefore of Musharraf's. Some people in that party are saying they want Musharraf tried for treason.

SEABROOK: Now, I understand that Musharraf's spokesman says that he will stay -Musharraf will stay and fight impeachment. What happens if he does that?

REEVES: Well, at the moment they're drawing up - they're nearly finished drawing up a charge sheet against Musharraf. And if he doesn't go, that will go before parliament next week and that'll be the beginning of the process. The coalition reckons it's got the two-third votes in the two houses of the parliament that it needs to get Musharraf impeached, but this is complicated. There's more to it.

I was talking to a constitutional expert today who said there's no actual procedure laid down over how to conduct impeachment hearings. So, that would have to be sorted out. It's never happened before in Pakistan. It could last a very long time, and what's worrying the U.S. and British officials who are working behind the scenes on this, is that this could mean that the government, which is already divided and hasn't done much in the last five months, it could be drawn into a protracted political drama instead of tackling the many other serious problems in Pakistan.

SEABROOK: What kind of problems are you talking about?

REEVES: After six years of growth, the economy is beginning to go belly up, there are high fuel prices. Of course, everyone's suffering from that. Pakistan's also experiencing the worst power shortages in its six decades of existence. Right here in the capital the power is off. You can perhaps hear the generator in the background.

The rupee hit a record low. Add to that the struggle with Islamist militants, particularly in the northwest of the country. A provincial governor over there said that more than 200,000 people in the northwest are displaced by fighting in one of the tribal areas, Bajua(ph).

SEABROOK: Now, Musharraf led the Pakistani army until last year. Where does the army stand now in terms of the political process?

REEVES: The new chief of staff, General Ashfaq Kayani, has made clear that he wants to get the army out of politics, and he has to some extent, to some great extent, done that. On the other hand, the army top brass will not want to see Musharraf humiliated. And it's fairly clear that they will be pushing for a deal, which ends of according him the kind of honor that they feel is due to an army chief and also to a retired president.

SEABROOK: NPR's Philip Reeves from Islamabad, Pakistan. Thanks very much, Phil.

REEVES: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.
Andrea Seabrook
Andrea Seabrook covers Capitol Hill as NPR's Congressional Correspondent.
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