ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – Pakistan’s beleaguered President Pervez Musharraf, a U.S. ally, on Monday received a direct violent threat from al-Qaida while his political opponents convened parliament to begin impeachment proceedings against him.
In a video, al-Qaida’s second in command, Ayman al-Zawahri, called for an uprising not only against Musharraf but also against the Pakistani state, which he said was “virtually ruled from the American Embassy.” He spoke in English for the first time in a recording.
The video came as Pakistan’s elected parliament met for a special session for impeachment proceedings. The government is still preparing its “charge sheet” against the president, but militant Islamic anger at him was obvious in al-Qaida’s video.
“Pervez has insulted and compromised Pakistan’s sovereignty by allowing the CIA and FBI to operate freely in Pakistan and arrest, interrogate, torture, deport and detain any person, whether Pakistani or not, for as long as they like, thus turning the Pakistani army and security agencies into hunting dogs in the contemporary crusade,” said al-Zawahri, an Egyptian who is considered the terrorist group’s chief ideologue.
Al-Zawahri denounced Musharraf in particular for his crackdown last year on Islamabad’s radical Red Mosque – an army raid that resulted in some 100 deaths – and his treatment of renegade Pakistani nuclear scientist A.Q. Khan, who has been under house arrest for four years. Although al-Qaida has little support in Pakistan, al-Zawahri picked two grievances that have widespread appeal in the country.
The authenticity of the recording, delivered to a Pakistani news channel over the weekend, couldn’t be verified, though experts said it sounded like al-Zawahri’s voice. Al-Zawahri said he was speaking in English to appeal directly to the people of Pakistan, regretting that he didn’t know Urdu, the national language. English is widely understood in Pakistan.
So far, Musharraf shows no signs of resigning, as many had predicted after the coalition government, which came to power after elections in February, announced last week that it would move to impeach him.
Parliament needs a two-thirds majority to convict him, and the numbers look close if members vote along party lines.
The impeachment process could take until Sept. 3, ministers indicated, which is the start of the Muslim holy month of Ramadan. The charges are expected to be based on Musharraf’s alleged subversion of the constitution.