In April 2002, Musharraf called a referendum to back his seizure of the presidency and install him in the office for a further five years. A referendum on the proposal was held the next month, with Musharraf's supporters claiming a huge victory, though the propriety of the vote was challenged by his opponents. In a further move to consolidate his position ahead of the scheduled return to democracy in October 2002, Musharraf changed the constitution to give the president the power to appoint and remove the prime minister and to dismiss an elected parliament. At the same time Musharraf announced the formation of a National Security Council, headed by the president and including members of the military and an opposition leader, to monitor the performance of future governments. The October elections for the National Assembly gave the highest number of seats to pro-Musharraf parties, though they did return a higher than expected number of anti-American Islamist candidates. In November the National Assembly elected Zafarullah Jamali, of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q), as prime minister, and Musharraf promised to hand over all executive authority. Nevertheless, Musharraf's opponents have rejected his changes to the constitution and expressed their hostility to the fact that he continues to combine the positions of head of state and chief of the army. The threat to Musharraf was made clear in December 2003 when he narrowly escaped assassination; bombs planted under a bridge in Rawalpindi exploded seconds after Musharraf's car had driven across. Musharraf blamed Islamist groups for the attack.
Musharraf's popularity plummeted in recent years [AFP]
Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, has resigned in a televised address to the nation.
"After consultations with my legal advisers and close polital friends, for the country and the nation today, I am deciding to resign from my office.
"I am leaving with the satisfaction that whatever I did for this country and the population, I did with honesty and committment," a teary-eyed Musharraf said.
"But I am also a human being," he added. "I might have made some mistakes, but I have hope that this nation and the population will tolerate those mistakes with the belief that my intentions were always clear and to the benefit of this country."
Rumours persisted that Musharraf was going to resign to avoid charges of impeachment that were to be levelled against him in parliament later this week.
Pakistani officials say that Musharraf's aides have held talks with the ruling
coalition, brokered by Saudi Arabia, the US and the UK, to allow him to quit in return for an indemnity for his previous actions.
Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Islamabad, said that a tremendous amount of speculation about Musharraf's resignation had built-up before the announcement, following the threat of impeachment by Pakistan's ruling coalition.
"The timing was significant. There were reports of a heavy amount of security at the airport, and that an aircraft was on the tarmac, and that the president might resign."
In his address, Musharraf, wearing a dark suit and tie, said that Pakistan was "his life".
"Pakistan first has been my philosophy," Musharraf said, adding that he had worked in "good faith" in the face of challenges including militancy and economic problems.
"Unfortunately, some elements acting for vested interests levelled false allegations against me and deceived people," he said, in a scathing attack on the ruling coalition, during a speech which categorically listed economic developments during his term as Pakistan's president.
"They said that during the last nine years our economic problems and electricity shortages were due to our policies. It is absolutely wrong and deception for the country.
"They never realised that they [opposition] could be successful against me, but they never thought how detrimental it would be for the country."
'Writing on the wall'
Shah Mahmood Qureshi, Pakistan's foreign minister, said on Monday that it appeared that Musharraf had "seen the writing on the wall".
"He is a wise man, he is a very experienced man and he has seen the writing on the wall," Qureshi told Pakistan's Dawn News earlier in the day.
"He has seen the sentiments of not just the elected representatives, but various institutions ... who all asked him to move in a particular way and do not destabilise things here."
Musharraf added that he introduced the "essence of democracy" to Pakistan.
"Everyone says I'm an army man, against democracy. I think that's wrong," he said.
'Political fate sealed'
The governing coaltion pressured Musharraf by issuing an impeachment ultimatium [AFP]
On Sunday, there was speculation that a deal might have been reached enabling Musharraf to resign without fear of prosecution.
But the ruling coalition said it was against any deal that would grant him legal immunity.
Coalition officials said on Saturday that a draft of the impeachment charge sheet was still awaiting approval from senior leaders.
Musharraf's spokesman said last week that his resignation might be dependent on what his rivals are willing to offer - in particular if they will give him legal immunity and let him stay in the country.
Separately, Condoleezza Rice, the US secretary of state, said on Sunday that the US was not currently considering granting asylum to Musharraf.
'Politics of revenge'
Speculation that Musharraf could be forced into exile heightened with the visit of Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz, Saudi Arabia's intelligence chief.
Divisions have also appeared in the ruling coalition with respect to the treason allegations, raising the likelihood of impeachment proceedings.
Sadiqul Farooq, a spokesman for the Pakistan Muslim League-N (PML-N) , headed by Nawaz Sharif, a former prime minister, whom Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, said legal guarantees were out of the question.
Sharif's party is the second largest in the coalition, and has said Musharraf should be tried for treason, which carries a maximum punishment of death.
"It will be in the interest of the country and the nation to make him an example in accordance with the constitution and the law," Farooq said.
Sherry Rehman, the information minister, and a top PPP member, said that the party "never indulges in the politics of revenge as it wants a stable Pakistan and a sustainable democracy in the country".
Sure....coz the man alikuwa anaiburuza ile nchi kama nini, i think rafiki zake akina kichaka wamemwambia bora a-step down, coz binafsi nilikuwa nafikiri at the end of the day jamaa wangem-assasinate tu coz its looks like wananchi they were tired of this fella!
Mmh, hapana! Fikra kama za kwako zinatuweka katika umaskini na dhuluma. Unaogopa nini? Vita? Sasa unafikiri tukiendelea hivi tutafika wapi? Watu wamekata tamaa Bongo, usijidanganye! Na mi naamini hivi sasa kitu kidogo kinaweza kuwa cheche na moto ukalipuka, ni vyema viongozi wetu wawe makini. It's better wananchi tupewa njia halali na ya kisheria tu-voice our displeasure kuliko kuleta ubabe.