ISLAMABAD, Aug 18 (Reuters) - Nuclear-armed Pakistan’s beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf announced his resignation on Monday in the face of an impending impeachment motion by the ruling coalition government. Musharraf, 65, came to power in a 1999 coup and has anchored Pakistan’s alliance with the United States, especially since Pakistan signed up for the U.S.-led campaign against terrorism after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
He promoted an investor-friendly environment and oversaw good growth and surging stocks until this year.
Following are some of the political, economic and diplomatic implications of his resignation.
* Opposition to Musharraf has bonded rival parties in the coalition government. His departure could see them drift apart.
* The Pakistan People’s Party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto leads the coalition, with former prime minister Nawaz Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) its chief partner. The two main civilian parties are old rivals and despite recent cooperation, will compete in the next election.
* The coalition government has vowed full commitment to the campaign against violent militancy. Despite questions over its policy of trying to negotiate with militants, recent operations in the northwest should have reassured Washington and other allies the government will match Musharraf’s security efforts.
* The military plays a dominant role in security policy, and its cooperation with the new government has been smooth.
* The United States, apparently resigned to Musharraf’s exit, said Pakistan’s leadership was a Pakistani matter. Ties between the new government and Washington are good and should remain so as long as the latter is satisfied the government is doing enough to stop militancy, in particular attacks into Afghanistan.
* India has enjoyed some of its best diplomatic relations with Pakistan in decades under Musharraf. While the new government is committed to the peace process with India, launched under Musharraf in 2004, India’s fear is that a weak civilian government in Islamabad will not have the same muscle Musharraf had over the army and the powerful military spy agency, which India suspects has a hand in most attacks on its soil.
* The government has vowed to turn its attention to economic problems after Musharraf leaves. Inflation is at its highest in years, and trade and fiscal deficits are widening. High oil prices have depleted foreign reserves while the rupee has lost about a quarter of its value this year.
An end to the uncertainty over Musharraf eased investor worries and the main stock index gained more than 4 percent on the resignation announcement. The rupee PKR=PK strengthened slightly against the dollar, snapping five consecutive sessions of record lows.
* Who becomes next president could depend on the powers the position retains. Musharraf had authority to dismiss parliament and make top military and judicial appointments. Coalition partners vow to strip the presidency of those powers and make it a largely ceremonial post.
However, analysts say Bhutto’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari, might want the job, in which case he will want to keep the powers. Zardari has also suggested the next president might be a woman. Newspapers have speculated an ethnic Pashtun leader, Asfandayr Wali Khan, whose liberal party is part of the coalition, could get the job. The president is elected by the four provincial assemblies and the national parliament.
Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari, Bhutto’s son and co-chairman of her Pakistan People’s Party, back in Pakistan from studies in Britain to visit his mother’s grave, told reporters in Karachi: “I’m sure it will be somebody from the Pakistan People’s Party”. (For a related story see PAKISTAN-POLITICS/ or double-click on [nISL174014] ) (Writing by by Robert Birsel; Editing by Jerry Norton)