The coalition partners finally seem to have reconciled their positions, as is supposed to be done in all good coalitions. The PML-N insisted that its core position included the restoration of the judiciary to its pre-Emergency position. The PPP did not spell out, but made clear from its behaviour, that it did not want the president to suffer any embarrassment, which he insisted he would suffer in the event of a full restoration, so it avoided the restoration, leaving the PML-N to do its second worst and leave the Federal Cabinet (the worst was leaving the Punjab government, which it did not do). The solution was to impeach the president, which has not just been announced, but has been recommended by three provincial assemblies, and will be recommended by the fourth. The equation was simple: find a president who will not be embarrassed by the restoration of the judiciary. For that, it was necessary to create a vacancy in the office, which meant the removal of the incumbent. Since the incumbent had been re-elected only last year and thus had virtually the whole of the five years of his second term to run, this meant impeaching him. The PPP decided purely according to the logic of the situation, and there is no malignity towards the president visible in the move, at least from the PPP. This is not the case with the PML-N, which on the other hand, saw an opportunity to fulfil another of its agenda items. The removal of the president is actually on the PPP to-do list, and after the February 18 election, which was more or less a referendum against Musharraf, it probably made sense to the PPP to place itself at the head of the movement for his removal. It appears that the foreign powers and the military have decided to remain neutral, but the president is determined to tough it out. He has to ensure the semblance of support from them, not necessarily actual support, if he hopes to defeat the move. The foreign powers have a historical record of letting down their Third-World allies when they lose support among their own people, and thus the number of American surveys appearing, that showed Musharraf as enjoying little support, assume significance, as does Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's meeting both with the British PM and the US President. The Americans in particular will not support anyone who does not enjoy a plurality in a survey after being in power and office since 1999, yet it is American support that Musharraf has been courting ever since 9/11. The president appears determined to go through with the impeachment, which follows a quasi-judicial procedure, as in the American model on which it is based. The big difference is in the voting. In the USA, an impeachment's framing is done by the lower House of Congress, the House of Representatives, but the impeachment itself is heard by the Upper House, the Senate, with the Chief Justice of the United States presiding. In Pakistan, there is no role for the chief justice, and the charges are determined by the federal government, or the movers of the motion of impeachment, in the shape of the motion itself. The joint committee tasked with drafting is working on this motion, and once their work reaches the House, the 'bill of impeachment' becomes public property, just as does any bill in the USA. Unlike the USA, where there is a clear Representatives-Senate division, Pakistan allows the impeachment to originate in either House moved by half of that House, and then for it to come before a joint sitting for consideration. At the joint sitting, there may be an investigation, but only if there is, will the president get the right to legal representation. The motion of impeachment must be passed by two-thirds of the senate (in the USA, and the chief justice does not have a vote) or two-thirds of the total membership of the joint sitting (in Pakistan). In short, considering that American senators and Pakistani members of parliament (both MNAs and senators) are both political animals, this vote is devoted to whether they like the face of the president or not. They are supposed to apply their minds to whether the incumbent violated the constitution or not, but they will not bother. In the USA, they will vote according to how it will sound in their next election, and in Pakistan, according to the party whip, which is crucial for the National Assembly and all-important for the senate. Yet Musharraf has a way out, though only if the agency chiefs cooperate. If members abstain, they are voting for the sitting president. The motion does not require a majority-against to be defeated, but will be defeated if it fails to attract the requisite number of votes, which is two-thirds of the total membership. Since the agencies have ensured the election of many of those on the Treasury benches (at least, to them), the agencies can make them abstain, and thus vote for the president. Such a presidency would be double-edged. Already, Pervez Musharraf is going to set a record, as a president who was the first to be impeached. Both of the presidential impeachment's in the USA that went to the senate, that of President Andrew Johnson in 1868 and of Bill Clinton in 1998, failed, while Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 rather than face impeachment, in which he was a virtual certainty to be convicted, not because he was guilty (which he was), but because the senators were under constituency pressures. Impeachment is no defence against further trial, and it is not clear in Pakistan what the status is of the evidence adduced. The pension rights of the president are sacrificed, though it is hoped that Musharraf would avoid this loss of what is a generous package, including free accommodation and transport by resigning. However, even if he loses these rights because he has been impeached, as a former chief of army staff, he gives up nothing, and this is a sufficiency for him. It must be said that the nation is going through a trauma as severe as the president, who is a mere channel. Just as a president is impeached only once, a nation witnesses a presidential impeachment for the first time only once. Pakistan is undergoing a stressful time, and it is to be hoped that it comes through successfully. E-mail: