ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf dismissed mounting speculation he is preparing to resign while political opponents and media on Friday clamored for his departure after eight years in power.
A late-night meeting this week between Musharraf and his successor as army chief fueled rumors that the longtime U.S. ally in its war on terror would resign. The new civilian government wants to strip the president of key powers, and some in the coalition are seeking his impeachment.
Speaking at a dinner with top government officials late Thursday, Musharraf denied that there were differences between him and army chief Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and rejected a report in The News daily that he had "made up his mind to call it a day."
"It was a routine meeting and we discussed issues. We have the best of associations. There is no problem whatsoever," Musharraf said in footage broadcast by state-run Pakistan Television. Kayani and Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani were also present at the dinner.
PTV also quoted Musharraf as saying the prime minister has "my full cooperation" in working for development of the country.
The former army strongman, who took power in a 1999 coup, has taken a back seat in national affairs since his allies suffered a crushing defeat in February elections. But that has not dampened calls for his ouster.
The pro-government party of former premier Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted in Musharraf's coup, has demanded the president's impeachment. The main ruling party of Asif Ali Zardari is less intent on that course but wants to strip Musharraf of powers to dissolve parliament.
Several major newspapers on Friday urged the president to resign.
Urdu-language daily Nawa-i-Waqt, in an editorial headlined "'King Musharraf," said he was running out of options and should learn a lesson from King Gyanendra who was forced out as monarch of Nepal this week after its parliament voted to make the country a republic.
"One man's stubbornness has practically paralyzed government," the daily said of Musharraf. "Fingers are being raised at the army that perhaps instead of protecting interests of the country, it is protecting interests of its former chief."
The Daily Times said the president's fate hung "in the balance," and it advised him to resign. The Nation newspaper said that by delaying his departure, Musharraf would "only add to the number of his opponents and make them increasingly determined."
But Dawn daily chided the coalition government for failing to resolve its own dispute over how to restore judges axed by Musharraf, as economic problems mount and the stock market plunges.
"The moribund grand coalition should get down to working for the people's betterment instead of giving the nation its daily dose of political soap opera," it said in an editorial.
The Nation and Nawa-i-Waqt have been strongly critical of Musharraf in the past, but The Daily Times has generally taken a more sympathetic stance, echoing Musharraf and Zadari's calls for stability.
Musharraf's popularity started to slide last year during a power struggle with the judiciary that culminated in his declaration of a state of emergency in November. He then purged the Supreme Court, which had been due to rule on the legality of his re-election as president the previous month by an outgoing parliament stacked with his supporters.
Musharraf subsequently relinquished his position as army chief, the main source of his former power. Despite scant backing for him in the new parliament, where his supporters are in opposition, Musharraf's spokesman says he intends to serve out his presidential term due to expire in 2012.