ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Faced with desertions by his political supporters and the neutrality of the Pakistani military, President Pervez Musharraf of Pakistan, an important ally of the United States, is expected to resign in the next few days rather than face impeachment charges, Pakistani politicians and Western diplomats said Thursday.
His departure from office is likely to unleash new instability in the country as the two main parties in the civilian government jockey for the division of power.
The details of how Mr. Musharraf would exit, and whether he would be able to stay in Pakistan — apparently his strong preference — or would seek residency abroad were now under discussion, the politicians said.
Mr. Musharraf was expected to resign before the coalition presented charges for impeachment to the Parliament early next week, said Nisar Ali Khan, a senior official in the Pakistani Muslim League-N, the minority partner in the coalition government.
Similarly, Sheikh Mansoor Ahmed, a senior official of the Pakistan People’s Party, the major party in the coalition, said on Thursday that the president would probably leave in the “next 72 hours.”
Inexorable pressure has built on Mr. Musharraf, a member of the military by profession and often impetuous by nature, to take a way out from the current crisis that would save him from embarrassing disclosures during impeachment procedures, and that would protect the nation from a prolonged political agony.
The United States and Britain, which last year together sought to put a democratic face on the unpopular Mr. Musharraf — who was then also chief of the army — by engineering the return of opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto, as his partner in a putative power-sharing arrangement are now virtual bystanders as Mr. Musharraf’s rule comes to an end.
Ms. Bhutto was assassinated in December, and her husband, Asif Ali Zardari, now the leader of the Pakistan People’s Party, emerged as a major force urging Mr. Musharraf’s ouster last week. The two major political parties in the coalition said last week that they would seek to remove Mr. Musharraf, and that the grounds for impeachment included mismanagement of the economy and Mr. Musharraf’s imposition in November of emergency rule and the firing of nearly 60 judges.
The American Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, met with senior officials of the political parties seeking Mr. Musharraf’s ouster in the past few days, and a senior diplomat in the British Foreign Office, Sir Mark Lyall Grant, met with Mr. Musharraf here this week, Pakistani officials and a Western diplomat said.
The envoys did not argue against Mr. Musharraf’s departure but rather stressed that he should be granted as dignified an exit as possible, the Pakistani officials said. The officials and diplomats spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly on the matter.
“The United Sates is now accepting Musharraf’s removal as a fait accompli,” said Mr. Khan.
“They just want that he should not be humiliated. We don’t want his humiliation either.”
The continued support of Mr. Musharraf by the Bush administration, anchored by the personal relationship between President Bush and Mr. Musharraf, has infuriated the four-month-old civilian coalition, which routed the president’s party in February elections. “Now the reaction from the American friends is positive,” Mr. Khan said.
While Mr. Bush has kept up his relations with Mr. Musharraf -- including regular telephone conversations -- the administration has also been trying to build its relations with the new Pakistani government, as it demands greater action against militants based in this country.
The coalition parties said that the impeachment charges would be presented to Parliament early next week, and that the charges would be far-ranging, and touch on, among other things, Mr. Musharraf’s decision to suspend the constitution last November and to introduce emergency rule.
The leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-N, Nawaz Sharif, has demanded that if Mr. Musharraf is impeached, a trial must follow, a proceeding that would be very messy, and could potentially rip the country apart.
In his hour of need, as the politicians move against him, Mr. Musharraf has been greeted by silence from the military, his former power base.
As army chief of staff, Mr. Musharraf grabbed power in October 1999, overthrowing Mr. Sharif, who was then prime minister.
Mr. Sharif has maneuvered for Mr. Musharraf’s ouster since he returned to power in the February elections.