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Pakistan's Musharraf Quits Amid Impeachment Threat

SCOTT SIMON, host:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Scott Simon, covering today for Melissa, Robert and Michele. Opponents of Pervez Musharraf are calling his resignation today a major step for democracy. Some others are not so sure.

The Pakistani president stepped down rather than face impeachment. NPR's Philip Reeves is in the capital, Islamabad. He filed this story on reaction to Mr. Musharraf's resignation.

PHILIP REEVES: Musharraf made a defiant exit. He'd acted in good faith, he said. He was leaving to avoid further political confrontation that would have damaged the nation.

So what happens to Musharraf now? Some of his opponents want him placed on trial. Before resigning, Musharraf was pressing for an immunity deal. We don't yet know if he got one, nor do we know if Musharraf will stay in Pakistan -he's building a mansion on the edge of Islamabad - or if he'll go into exile, perhaps in the U.S. or Saudi Arabia.

Political commentator and former ambassador to Washington Tarik Fatame(ph).

Mr. TARIK FATAME (Former Ambassador to Washington): I think he leave the country for some time, then see how things develop back home. He's a very stubborn person. I'd always said that he would not walk away.

REEVES: The law says elections for a new president must be held within 30 days. Until then, the chairman of Pakistan's senate will be acting president.

Power has now shifted in Pakistan from the army and the presidency to the prime minister and parliament. We can expect the constitution to be changed to ensure the next president won't be able to dismiss the government.

With their mutual enemy, Musharraf, gone, will Pakistan's ruling coalition parties now be able to hold together? Its leaders - Benazir Bhutto's widower, Asif Zardari, and former prime minister Nawaz Sharif - have had big disagreements. Both men seem eager for power. Their parties have a long record of mutual hostility.

Former senior government official Tawab Sadiki(ph) is not optimistic.

Mr. TAWAB SADIKI (Former Senior Government Official): This coalition is not going to last. It has too many contradictions built in, and as we've already seen, there is bound to be a split.

REEVES: One area of possible friction is whether senior judges sacked by Musharraf will now be restored. This is a key demand of Sharif's and also of the country's legal and civil rights communities.

Zardari appears to be less enthusiastic. Analysts say he fears the restored judges may annul an amnesty organized by Musharraf, which allowed him and his wife, the late Benazir Bhutto, to return to Pakistan without fear of facing corruption charges.

As Pakistan adjusts to life without Musharraf, the mood seems subdued.

(Soundbite of political protest)

REEVES: This was one of several scattered celebrations in the capital, Islamabad, today after Musharraf announced his resignation. There were no mass festivities.

Pakistanis seemed to be reflecting on a general who never learnt how to play politics, a soldier who analysts say saw himself as a canny commando but sometimes had very little idea of what was going on at ground level.

President PERVEZ MUSHARRAF (Pakistan): If anyone says that I have become unpopular, I don't agree with that. I have my own methods of finding out, and I make sure of it.

REEVES: Fatame believes in the end, history will not look particularly kindly on Musharraf, although he says the general's rule started with hope.

Mr. FATAME: His primary constituency, the urban, educated, secular, liberal sections, were the ones who were the most deeply disappointed at the end of nine years.

REEVES: Abdul Haffis Pasada(ph), lawyer and adviser to Musharraf, thinks the world will soften its view with time.

Mr. ABDUL HAFFIS PASADA (Attorney): He has his pluses and his minuses. He has made some good things. He has been good for Pakistan, particularly in the initial years, and he has also committed some mistakes. When the dust settles down, history will be kinder to him than what appears to be the general perception today.

REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, Islamabad. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Philip Reeves is an award-winning international correspondent covering South America. Previously, he served as NPR's correspondent covering Pakistan, Afghanistan, and India.