ISLAMABAD, Aug 15: Political activities surrounding the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf became feverish as a special committee of the ruling coalition announced on Friday it had finalised the draft of a charge-sheet amid reports of intensified efforts for mediation by foreign governments.

Meanwhile, a presidential spokesman in his first direct and emphatic response declared that the president was ‘innocent’ and in no mood to resign.

“The committee has finished its job and the draft (of the charge-sheet) has been handed over to Law Minister Farooq Naek to clothe it in appropriate jargon,” PPP spokesman and member of the committee, Farhatullah Babar, told Dawn.

He said although impeachment was a constitutional process, and not a legal one, the committee had made it a comprehensive document and it would be sent to the coalition heads for their nod.

He claimed that the charge-sheet against the president contained “solid evidences”.

On the other hand, the president’s spokesman, Maj-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, alleged that the coalition parties were wrongly implicating an ‘innocent man’.

“They have been charging an innocent man wrongly and about these charges we have only heard through the media,” Mr Qureshi said, categorically ruling out the possibility that the president would resign before initiation of the impeachment process.

He said the president would reply to the charges only after receiving the charge-sheet. He alleged: “The media have been behaving irresponsibly and we think all news about the president’s resignation are being planted with certain intentions and motives. He is totally innocent.”

The response of Mr Qureshi during an exclusive chat with DawnNews indicates that the president is in no mood to quit office over the next 24 to 48 hours, as being reported by a section of the media.

Asked to name the president’s supporters, Mr Qureshi said: “Every sane individual who has seen him (the president) at work is supporting this man who has dedicated his life for over eight years to the country and its people.”

In reply to question about the mood of the president, he said: “He is as confident as an innocent man would be because he has done nothing wrong.”

Sources in both ruling and opposition parties admitted that hectic diplomatic efforts were being made by some foreign governments for mediation between the president and the coalition.

A former minister of state for information and PML-Q’s Senator, Tariq Azeem, told BBC that ‘some friends’ were mediating between the president and the government. When asked whether the US ambassador and former UK high commissioner Mark Lyall Grant were also involved in the activities, he said: “The people who were involved in the reconciliation process between PPP chairperson Benazir Bhutto and President Musharraf are making efforts. And Mark Grant is involved in it from day one.”

SAUDI PRINCE: There were reports in the electronic media that the chief of Saudi intelligence agency, Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, had secretly arrived in Pakistan and held talks with coalition leaders and President Musharraf. He is reportedly seeking a ‘safe exit’ for the president.

However, PML-N Senator Ishaq Dar denied that his party had made any contact with the Saudi government on the issue.

Mr Qureshi also refuted such reports. “I have no knowledge about it. Ask (the) government about such meetings. It is absolutely wrong that any Saudi intelligence official has met the president,” Mr Qureshi said.

Foreign Office spokesman Mohammad Sadiq, asked to comment on the reports, simply said: “I have no information.”

Prince Muqrin has been playing an active role in Pakistan’s politics for the past many years and he had personally visited the country to take former prime minister Nawaz Sharif with him when the PML-N chief made an attempt to return home in defiance of an agreement signed by him with the Saudi government for living in Saudi Arabia.

A source told Dawn that a Saudi aircraft did land at Chaklala Airbase late on Thursday night, but it was not clear who was on board. He said the plane left the base early on Friday morning and there was no information whether it had taken its passengers back or they were still in the country.

He also claimed that a special plane carrying officials from Dubai had landed at Islamabad Airport. He said the plane could not take off due to some technical reasons and it was still at the airport.

PRUNING: Some members of the drafting committee hinted that the coalition leaders might decide to cut the charge-sheet ‘short’ because they did not want to prolong the impeachment process.

They feared that if the charge-sheet was lengthy, the president might seek more time to prepare a reply. “I think when we have the numbers in parliament, there is no need to level hundred charges against the president as one major charge of subverting the Constitution is sufficient to impeach him,” said a member of the committee before attending the meeting held at the residence of Information Minister Sherry Rehman.

Mr Babar said it was up to the coalition leaders to decide if they wanted to drop some charges in the final impeachment notice.

He rejected a perception that the coalition government was intentionally delaying the process in order to give more time to the president to resign. “It is not in the interest of the coalition to delay the process.”

The committee members had earlier claimed that the voluminous charge-sheet against President Musharraf would comprise hundreds of pages containing serious charges of misconduct, financial irregularities, constitutional violations and criminal acts that could lead to an open trial.

However, they hinted on Friday that the final charge-sheet might only contain charges relating to constitutional violations and misconduct.

Mr Babar said the coalition heads had 48 hours for consultations on the draft because they were planning to submit the notice to the National Assembly secretariat by Tuesday.

PML-N information secretary Ahsan Iqbal, who is also a member of the committee, said that Gen (retd) Musharraf alone was responsible for the current political, economic, constitutional and judicial crises.

He alleged that the president, who had violated the Constitution several times, was also “involved in extra-judicial killings”.

Mr Iqbal said the president had lost all moral, legal and constitutional reasons to continue as president after the passage of resolutions against him in the four provincial assemblies.



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