ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – President Pervez Musharraf should resign to spare Pakistan the trauma of a bitter impeachment process that will include accusations he violated the constitution, Pakistan's law minister said Sunday.
Farooq Naek spoke as senior officials in Pakistan's ruling coalition met to prepare a list of impeachment charges to be brought against the embattled president.
Starting Monday, provincial assemblies in Pakistan are expected to pass resolutions demanding that Musharraf seek a vote of confidence from Parliament. The lower house of Parliament is also set to convene Monday in anticipation of impeachment proceedings, though Naek said it could be a few days before a charge sheet is completed.
Musharraf dominated Pakistan for eight years after taking power in a 1999 coup, but has been largely sidelined since his foes won February parliamentary elections.
The former army chief, a longtime ally of the U.S. in its war on terror who last year imposed a state of emergency and fired dozens of judges to avoid legal challenges to his rule, has resisted calls to resign.
Naek said the charge sheet will detail ways that Musharraf violated the constitution and "the gross misconduct that the president has done."
"I think for full restoration of the constitution, and for the survival of this nation and for democracy in this country, it is very necessary that Gen. Musharraf resigns himself, otherwise the impeachment will start," Naek said in remarks broadcast by Geo TV.
Although Musharraf's allies have urged him to fight impeachment, they have advised him against using his authority to dismiss Parliament and the prime minister.
Such moves would be enormously contentious and require support from the army, which has indicated it wants to stay out of politics.
A resolution to initiate impeachment proceedings requires the signatures of half the lawmakers in either the lower house of Parliament — the National Assembly — or upper house — the Senate. The president would have the right to defend himself against the charges.
Stripping Musharraf of the presidency would then require a two-thirds majority vote of all lawmakers in a joint session of the National Assembly and Senate.
Information Minister Sherry Rehman told reporters Sunday that the coalition had enough support — including from some lawmakers in parties considered pro-Musharraf — to remove the president. But Musharraf allies dispute that, and analysts have said it could be close.
Ishaq Dar, a lawmaker who attended Sunday's meeting, also urged Musharraf to resign.
"The numbers are there — that is written on the wall. It is better that he should say goodbye and leave," Dar told reporters.