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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Crisis Threatens Pakistani President

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- The embattled government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif moved Thursday to impeach President Farooq Leghari to break deadlock in a constitutional crisis paralyzing Pakistan's politics.


Sources in Sharif's Moslem League party said a bill to impeach Leghari was likely to be introduced in the senate, or lower house, possibly Thursday night.


The action is a reprisal for Leghari's refusal to endorse a hastily-drafted law giving Sharif the right of appeal if the Supreme Court finds him guilty of contempt.


This latest twist followed a series of cabinet meetings and a session of the Moslem League parliamentary party, which has an overwhelming majority.


The move to impeach the president was thought to be without precedent and deepened the crisis caused by a trial of strength between Sharif's government, the judiciary and the president. Under the constitution the president can be impeached if he is mentally ill, breaches the constitution or is incompetent.


Party sources said the Moslem League was considering action against Chief Justice Sajjad Ali Shah but it was not known what form it would take.


The crisis has also involved the fourth pillar of Pakistani politics, the army. General Jehangir Karamat, the armed forces chief of staff, returned abruptly to Islamabad this week.


Earlier the Supreme Court suspended the law enabling Sharif to appeal if convicted of contempt of court, a charge he denies. It also told Leghari not to approve the bill.


The moves put Leghari at the center of a crisis which opposition legislators say could paralyze government and eventually bring it down.


"This is a law just to save one man," said Pakistan People's Party opposition legislator Naveed Malik.


On Wednesday, Sharif appealed to Leghari to approve the bill, saying it would end the political stalemate.


The Supreme Court charges arise out of remarks Sharif made after it suspended one of his first pieces of legislation, which banned the practice of parliamentarians changing sides. Sharif told a news conference the action was illegal.


In theory, Sharif could be forced to resign if found guilty of contempt of court but there are no precedents and lawyers said it was uncharted territory.