Pakistan's president will resign and leave the country, according to NEWSWEEK sources.
Fasih Ahmed and Ron Moreau
Newsweek Web Exclusive
Updated: 1:20 PM ET Aug 17, 2008
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is expected to resign Monday and fly into exile in Saudi Arabia, where he is to remain for the next three months, a former aide to the president has told NEWSWEEK on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. The aide added that the news had been relayed to the nation's top military brass, including its powerful corps commanders. Though a current aide to Musharraf confirms that the president will resign, officially, Musharraf's camp denies the story. "Your source is a liar," retired Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi, a presidential spokesman, told NEWSWEEK when asked about the president's resignation and possible flight into exile. "The information you have is absolutely untrue."
The 65-year-old Musharraf, who has ruled the country of 170 million with an authoritarian hand for nearly nine years, may be seeking to avoid a humiliating impeachment trial before a largely hostile parliament and to protect himself from possible criminal prosecution. Still, the exit of Washington's one-time point man in the war on terror is unlikely to solve Pakistan's myriad ills, including economic and political instability, government paralysis and an increasingly aggressive Islamic insurgency along the frontier with Afghanistan. It could even add to Pakistan's volatility, as the president's main nemeses and ruling coalition partners, Pakistani People's Party co-chairmen Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif, begin to jockey for position to fill a power vacuum created by Musharraf's departure.
Though his resignation had been expected for days, a move to flee the country is a surprise since Musharraf and his chief allies have said he would fight impeachment and remain in Pakistan. At a gathering at the presidential palace in Islamabad on Wednesday, the eve of Pakistan's Independence Day, the president may have foreshadowed his decision in a speech to his guests. He tried to put the best face on his worsening predicament, calling for reconciliation among the country's political forces as the only way that Pakistan could face its many challenges. But according to NEWSWEEK sources, in private conversations that night Musharraf agreed with several close friends that his resignation was his only viable option, and that fighting impeachment proceedings in parliament would only deepen and prolong the country's political agony.