The Pakistani government is preparing the ground for President Pervez Musharraf's honourable exit from office by indemnifying him against the steps he took after declaring an emergency last November.
Musharraf "has offered to resign in return for indemnity by parliament for his unconstitutional steps taken on November 3, 2007," The News reported Wednesday, quoting unidentified sources.
Law Minister Farooq H. Naek was tantalizingly vague on the issue."Wait and see. Everything is open as of today," he said.
Musharraf's offer to quit was made during recent rounds of negotiations between the presidency and representatives of ruling Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Zardari on the constitutional package the party has prepared.
"It came through when the Aiwan-i-Sadr (President's House) realised that the PPP would restore all the judges (Musharraf had sacked in November) and clip the presidential powers," The News quoted its sources as saying.
"A powerless presidency with the pre-November 3 judges back in the saddle was not an acceptable option for Musharraf. Hence the offer to step down in return for his support for the passage by parliament of the 18th (constitutional) amendment," the newspaper said.
The amendment, to be introduced during the budget session of parliament next month, relates to an ambiguity surrounding Article VI of the constitution under which the president can be tried for high treason if he subverts the statute.
However, the article also permits the president to approach the Supreme Court if he is accused of the offence. The amendment will remove this clause.
"Musharraf is demanding a price to agree to the constitutional package and then step down," The News quoted its sources as saying, adding that the PPP is not willing to grant indemnity without taking its "pound of flesh".
"What steps of Musharraf will be indemnified is not yet finalised but the constitutional amendment will have a pardon for Musharraf," the sources told the paper.