August 18, 2008

Sharif’s Party: No Immunity for Musharraf

By The Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - No legal immunity for President Pervez Musharraf, a party in Pakistan's coalition government insisted Saturday, refusing to budge from a stance that could hurt discussions on avoiding the embattled leader's impeachment.

Allies and rivals of Musharraf have said back-channel talks are under way that could lead to the president's exit before an impeachment motion reaches Parliament. Ruling coalition officials said Saturday that a draft of the impeachment charge sheet is awaiting final approval from senior party leaders and that proceedings could begin early this week.

Musharraf spokesman Rashid Qureshi insisted Friday that the president is not stepping down.

Whether he changes his mind could depend on whether Musharraf's rivals can stomach granting him immunity and the freedom to stay in Pakistan in exchange for his resignation.

On this issue, divisions have appeared in the ruling coalition.

Sadiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the party of ex-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif - whom Musharraf ousted in his 1999 coup - said legal guarantees were out of the question. His party, the second-largest in the coalition, has said Musharraf should be tried for treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death.

"It will be in the interest of the country and the nation to make him an example in accordance with the constitution and the law," Farooq said.

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