President Musharraf of Pakistan has announced his resignation this morning, in an address to his nation in advance of impeachment charges which were expected to be filed tomorrow.
In a one-hour long televised address, Musharraf defended his nearly nine-year rule and rejected accusations against him, but said he was leaving office.
"After consultations with legal advisers and close political supporters and on their advice, I'm taking the decision of resigning," a somber Musharraf said.
"My resignation will go to the speaker of the National Assembly today."
His resignation had been rumored for weeks and speculation peaked yesterday, with the new civilian government in particular pushing it as an alternative to messy court proceedings, although until today Musharraf had insisted he would stay to fight the charges. There's little doubt that his Western allies have pressured him to accept a deal, seeking to keep Pakistan a little more stable at a time when it seems in danger of falling apart at the seams.
I was highly sceptical that he would step down as it implied a level of complicity by the military and ISI intelligence that I believed was more touted than real. It seems I was wrong. It remains to be seen whether the new government's further claims that it has complete control over the military and intelligence agencies now are also real following some very embarrassing setbacks - and whether it will curb the ISI from using Islamist terror groups as foreign policy proxies against its traditional bugbear India.
The other interesting question is "what will Mushie do next?" Exile seems likeliest and there have been rumors that the US, which has long backed the former dictator, would offer him asylum. But it appears that the Saudis have stepped in, as major mediators of the resignation deal, and so Musharraf will probably retire there. Which is ironic, in that it will put the man who was ultimately in charge of the intelligence agency that was pulling Al Qaeda's strings prior to (and post) 9/11 in the country that furnished most of the hijackers - and both Musharraf and the Saudi rulers are staunch Bush allies.