ISLAMABAD, Aug 5: Pakistan People’s Party and Pakistan Muslim League-N on Tuesday agreed to formally ask President Pervez Musharraf to step down and to impeach him through parliamentary measures if he did not oblige, sources in both the parties told Dawn after talks between their leaders at the Zardari House here.

PPP co-chairman Asif Zardari and PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif led their respective teams in the six-hour talks amid growing concerns over the future of the ruling coalition because of the differences over the issues of reinstatement of judges and the future of an increasingly isolated president.

Although there was no official confirmation, the meeting left no doubt that the focus was on impeachment of the president.

Later, PML-N leader Khwaja Asif confirmed in an interview with a private television network that “all legal and constitutional hitches are being removed to impeach the president”.

The state-run news agency APP said that the issues of deposed judges and the president’s impeachment dominated the talks.

It is expected that Mr Sharif and Mr Zardari will make an announcement at a joint press conference after their second round of talks on Wednesday evening.

According to PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar, Mr Zardari and Mr Sharif held one-to-one talks for more than an hour after which they were joined by their aides. He announced that the talks would continue on Wednesday and other coalition partners would be taken into confidence late in the evening.

Immediately after the meeting, a team of PPP and PML-N negotiators, headed by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, flew to Karachi to brief Awami National Party’s (ANP) president Asfandyar Wali Khan and Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman about Tuesday’s deliberations.

This was considered by observers here as an indication that the two parties were serious about their decision to act against President Musharraf.

According to a source, Mr Zardari also talked to the ANP president on phone.

Later, Mr Zardari met Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani at the Prime Minister House and informed him about the developments. Law Minister Farooq Naek also attended the meeting.

It is not clear what position would the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM), a staunch ally of President Musharraf, take if a serious move is made to impeach him. At present, the MQM is sitting in the opposition in the National Assembly but is a coalition partner of the PPP in Sindh.

Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ishaq Dar and Khwaja Asif assisted Mr Sharif while Mr Zardari was assisted by Leader of the House in Senate Raza Rabbani, Syed Khurshid Shah, Sherry Rehman, Qamaruz Zaman Kaira and PPP’s secretary-general Jahangir Badar. Law Minister Farooq Naek, who was attending the Senate session, was called to the Zardari House for legal opinion on some important matters.

A large number of local and foreign media personnel kept waiting outside the Zardari House despite heavy rain, hoping that the two leaders might address a press conference. However, at the end of the meeting, PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar issued a joint statement which said: “Discussions held in a cordial atmosphere were very positive, frank and productive. Major progress was made as broad consensus emerged on key issues. It was decided to re-convene the meeting on Wednesday to consult with other partners of the ruling coalition. Contacts with Fata leaders and other allies will also be made during the course of the night to get their input for the (Wednesday’s) meeting.”

According to insiders, PPP leaders had succeeded in persuading the PML-N not to insist on reinstatement of the deposed judges before the removal of President Musharraf and said that his removal would help the government to fulfil its promise about the restoration of the judiciary.

The two sides, they said, agreed that President Musharraf was hindering the judges’ reinstatement and after his removal from the office, the judges would have no objection to take a fresh oath under the Constitution.

Khwaja Asif later told the private TV channel that a charge-sheet against President Musharraf would be prepared by the two parties and under the Constitution the president would be provided an opportunity to defend himself before parliament. He expressed the hope that they would be “able to give a complete timeframe for the impeachment by Wednesday”.

He said charges against President Musharraf were “known to the entire nation” and they would be supported by strong evidence.



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