ISLAMABAD, June 7: President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday declared in categorical terms that he had no immediate plan to resign or go into exile, but said he was ready to face impeachment and would accept any decision taken by the parliament.

“I won’t resign in the current situation. I will live and die in Pakistan, there is no other way,” President Musharraf told a select group of journalists in his first interaction with the media since the imposition of emergency on Nov 3 last year.

Rumours that President Musharraf is on his way out have been in circulation in the country for the past few weeks and on May 29 the rumour was so strong that it brought public and commercial life to a virtual standstill. The same night President Musharraf hosted a farewell dinner for former Punjab governor Lt-Gen (retd) Khalid Maqbool. On that occasion he rubbished all such rumours.

However, the rumour mills continued to grind, forcing President Musharraf to come out with his version.

The president, however, indicated that he would not like to be reduced to a ceremonial head of state. “I will keep watching. I can’t become a useless vegetable” he said, adding: “If I see that I don’t have any role to play, then it is better to play golf and take rest.”

He declared that he would not make any judgment under pressure and that he “cannot preside over the downfall of Pakistan”.

Showing anger over reports that he was planning to leave for Turkey, President Musharraf said: “I don’t have a house anywhere outside Pakistan. And I don’t want to have one.

“Where is the aircraft that had come to take me out of the country?” the president wondered, referring to a newspaper report last week that claimed an aircraft had landed at Islamabad to take President Musharraf abroad.

He asked his opponents to bring an impeachment resolution against him in the parliament if they wanted to get rid of him. “My opponents should try to remove me through vote and not through abuses.”

The constitution provided mechanism for impeaching a president, he said. “Do it amicably and politely,” the president said, adding: “Parliament is supreme. I will abide by whatever the parliament decides. Let assemblies decide.”

President Musharraf alleged that the rumours about his fate were being spread under a planned conspiracy. “I know the direction as I am the target (of these rumours),” he said, adding such rumours were only affecting the people of Pakistan and creating “uncertainty and confusion”.

Moreover, he added, such rumours were damaging the economy and threatening foreign investment.

A visibly upset president also dismissed claims by leaders of Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) that the presidency was hatching conspiracies against the coalition government. “As the president of Pakistan, I am performing my functions according to the Constitution. There is no interference from my side whatsoever. No conspiracy is being hatched at the Presidency.”

President Musharraf said all the governments — at the centre and provinces — were functioning independently.

JUDGES’ ISSUE: The president once again defended the imposition of emergency and the sacking of judges on Nov 3 last year. However, he said he had only sent a reference against Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry and had not dismissed 60 other judges. “They themselves did not take oath under the PCO and quit their offices.”

He said if the Parliament reinstated the judges, he would accept it.

EX-SERVICEMEN: The president came down hard on the Ex-Servicemen Society of Pakistan, which has been calling for his trial for suspending the Constitution.

Pervez Musharraf the society of “violating the military’s culture and ethos”.

He dismissed the society as a private organisation, asserting that it had nothing to do with the Army.

The president reserved harsh words for Lt-Gen (retd) Jamshed Gulzar Kiani, a former corps commander, accusing him of violating the National Secrets Act and confidentiality rules by speaking openly on important issues like the Kargil war.

“He is letting the Pakistan Army down,” the president said, adding the concerned quarters should take note of these violations.

KARGIL COMMISSION: The president said the government had a right to form a commission to probe the Kargil war, but at the same time, he averred, the issue could not be debated as it involved “national secrets and confidentialities”.

LAL MASJID: President Musharraf said the Lal Masjid operation was carried out after persistent appeals by the people. He said the “activities of Lal Masjid militants” were bringing a bad name to the country and everyone was criticising the government for not taking any action against them.

He denied that any chemical weapons were used during the operation.

“Hats off to those who carried out the operation and the nation should also salute them for doing a national service.”

DR A. Q. KHAN: President Musharraf did not talk much about Dr A. Q. Khan and his recent statements in which he claimed that he had given the confessional statement in 2004 about nuclear proliferation under pressure.

“I will only say that whatever he (Dr Khan) is saying is absolutely wrong. I would not speak on the issue as it would be against national interests.”

JOINT SESSION: In response to a question, the president said that he would only address a joint session of parliament if the speaker and all political parties assured him that they would listen to him with discipline.

“I don’t consider it a requirement” was the president’s reply when a questioner asked if it was no constitutionally binding on him to address the joint sitting of parliament at the beginning of each parliamentary year.

ECONOMIC ISSUES: The president said the country was going through a “critical” situation, but expressed a hope that things could be handled even now.

He said oil and food prices were on the surge throughout the world and Pakistan was also facing its effects. He admitted that there had been a delay on the part of the government to address these problems.

He termed terrorism and economy the biggest challenges for the country.

The president praised Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani who, according to him, was making serious efforts to steer the country out of crises.

“My support will always be with the prime minister. May he succeed in steering the country out of the current crises.”

He said that he had no plan to take any step against the prime minister or the present coalition government. “I am not an imbalanced person that uses 58-2B.”

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