August 18, 2008

Musharraf Reportedly Not Offered Asylum By Saudi Arabia – Pakistan Paper

Text of report by Muhammad Saleh Zaafir headlined "Jeddah palace not to host Pak leaders any more" published by Pakistani newspaper The News website on 18 August

Islamabad: The Saudis do not want to convert Jeddah's Al-Saroor Palace into the Guantanamo Bay of exiled Pakistani leaders, observers said. Till last year, Nawaz Sharif and his family stayed here for about seven years after being forced into exile by Pervez Musharraf.

The Palace is lying vacant these days. The sources said that the Saudi Ambassador in Pakistan Ali Saeed Awadh Assirri who had gone to his native town Assir a few days back has yet to return to Islamabad. Had the Saudi offered President Musharraf asylum, Riyadh would have sent its envoy to Islamabad for the arrangements but the Saudis are not interested in playing as permanent host of any other top person from Pakistan.

The sources disputed the reported visit of a Saudi high up last week who came here for an overnight stay and had meeting with Musharraf and a leader who calls the shots these days. The high up has invited the President to visit Saudi Arabia for Umra [minor Haj] with his family but there was no mention of asylum like he sought for Nawaz Sharif and his family. Musharraf has been offered with a dignified route for travelling to another destination but not a permanent stay in the Saudi Kingdom, the sources said.

Interestingly, Saudi Arabia provided shelter to Ugandan military dictator for about sixteen years with his sixty children and four wives when he was ousted from his country after coup. He used to perform Hajj every year in exile and he had his last breath in the Saudi Kingdom.

Moreover, the US denial for giving asylum to President Pervez Musharraf proved to be a major setback for troubled President Pervez Musharraf and it has been taken as a big shock by the Presidential camp.

The United States is a latest addition among the countries that have already refused to facilitate Musharraf with shelter in the event of his ouster. Meanwhile, the President House in its last ditch effort is approaching Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) that constitutes third largest parliamentary group in the two Houses of the Parliament with an SOS message while the ruling alliance has already streamlined its contacts with it on the question of impeachment.

The MQM has abstained in the Sindh Assembly from voting in no- trust motion despite it had been supporting the President but the Presidential camp is approaching the MQM supremeo Altaf Hussain with the request to play mediator role for the exit of the besieged Musharraf.

President Musharraf's close aide and Secretary National Security Council (NSC) Tariq Aziz could leave for London any time to meet Altaf Hussain. Keeping in view the efforts of the Presidential camp the ruling alliance has stepped up its pressure on the president for stepping down on its conditions.

Highly placed sources told The News that President Pervez Musharraf has descended a step further and in the fast changing circumstances he is prepared to give up his demand for staying back in the country. He is emphasizing on his lone demand that his disputed actions should be indemnified. "The moment the government moves in this direction, President Musharraf would not delay for single second to quit the office," the Presidential camp has told the sources. The legal and constitutional experts of the president have told him if his acts are not indemnified, he would be so vulnerable for being nabbed any time later and the subsequent government could even drag him back in that case.

The leadership of the PML-N has already threatened on record that it would bring Musharraf back whenever it get chance to try him in case he runs away now from the country or is consigned abroad by the administration.

The sources said that ruling alliance could agree with certain conditions to provide the president safe exit from the country but it would be extremely difficult for the major parties of the coalition to grant him indemnity.

On the other side the Presidential camp is of the view that it had better for Musharraf to face the impeachment than to resign without obtaining indemnity. Turkish ambassador in Pakistan Rauf Engin Soysal who had gone to Ankara for consultations has come back.

Prevez Musharraf has always shown his special interest in Turkey, as his father was superintendent in Pakistan embassy in Ankara during his childhood. Musharraf has some command on Turkish language. It is understood that the Turkish envoy had consultations about much speculated asylum by Musharraf in Turkey, the sources said.

It was a rumour here earlier that President Musharraf has prestigious villa in Turkey but it was later denied by the Presidency. The Turkish envoy when contacted by this scribe declined to comment on the matter.

The ruling alliance is hectically engaged in preparations for sailing through the impeachment motion in the Parliament as the Parliamentary groups comprise ruling alliance have asked its members of the National Assembly and Senate to rush to the federal capital and they have been requested to be present in Islamabad by Monday evening.

The groups are engaged in establishing contacts with the members since midweek last and it is expected that the members would reach here this evening (Monday) To a query by this scribe the constitutional experts have said that once the impeachment process is initiated the ruling alliance would find it difficult to halt it even the president resigns in its course.

President's legal aides including Abdul Hafeez Pirzada are contending that the Parliament hears the impeachment motion like a tribunal and if the case is submitted, the tribunal will have to complete the hearing and it has to give its verdict after starting its hearing.

They have referred to the article 47 of the constitution that deals with the removal/impeachment of the president and it says, "Notwithstanding anything contained in the constitution, the President may, in accordance with the provisions of this Article, be removed from office on the ground of physical or mental incapacity or impeached on a charge of violating the constitution or gross misconduct."

The impeachment motion will be ready by Monday afternoon before the commencement of the National Assembly sitting, the sources said. It will be signed by about three hundred members of the Parliament while the same article of the constitution says in this regard that "Not less than one-half of the total membership of either House may give to the Speaker of the National Assembly or, as the case may be, the Chairman written notice of its intention to move a resolution for the removal of, or, as the case may be, to impeach, the president; and such notice shall set out the particulars of his incapacity or of the charges against him.""If a notice under clause (2) is received by the chairman, he shall transmit it forthwith to the Speaker. (4) The Speaker shall, within three days of the receipt of a notice under clause (2) or clause (3), cause a copy of the notice to be transmitted to the president.""The Speaker shall summon the two Houses to meet in a joint sitting not earlier than seven days and not later than fourteen days after the receipt of the notice by him." The experts reminded that the Parliament or its any appointed committee look into the allegations for investigations and the Articles 47 says about it further, "The joint sitting may investigate or cause to be investigated the ground or the charges upon which the notice is founded." The experts said that the president has the right to defend himself in the Parliament or before the committee constituted by the House for the purpose. He can appoint his representative for the purpose. The article says, "The president shall have the right to appear and be represented during the investigation, if any, and before the joint sitting. "If, after consideration of the result of the investigation, if any, a resolution is passed at the joint sitting by the votes of not less than two-third of the total membership of the Parliament declaring that the president is unfit to hold the office due to incapacity or is guilty of violating the constitution or of gross misconduct, the president shall cease to hold office immediately on the passing of the resolution," the experts referring the last clause of the article on the subject in question have given the idea about the competence of the Parliament to oust the president.

Originally published by The News website, Islamabad, in English 18 Aug 08.

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