Sunday, November 25, 2007

Musharraf to 'quit as army chief'

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 Musharraf to 'quit as army chief'

Updated: 2007-09-18 07:24

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf plans to quit as army chief to
become a civilian leader, removing a main objection to his proposed
re-election in October, a senior ruling party official said yesterday.

"We expect that after his re-election process next month, God willing,
General Musharraf would take his oath of office as a civilian president
before November 15," said Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed,
secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML).

Musharraf retained the post of army chief after he took power in a
military coup in 1999, despite calls from the opposition to quit the dual

His acquiescence could be seen as a victory for Benazir Bhutto, who has
said that any power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf would depend,
among other things, on him becoming a civilian president.

Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party announced on Friday the two-time former
prime minister would return to Pakistan on October 18, ending more than
eight years of self-exile.

Giving up the army role would undoubtedly dilute Musharraf's power in a
country that has been ruled by generals for more than half the 60 years
since it was founded.

It will also be a wrench for a life-long soldier who described his
uniform as a "second skin". But aides say Musharraf has been reconciled
to quitting the army for months.

Senator Sayed said Musharraf would abide by the constitution and quit the
army before the end of 2007. Musharraf's term as president expires on
November 15.

"Yes, I have no doubt that the president will keep his commitment," said
Sayed, who recently met Musharraf.

"He is clear on this issue."

Before quitting the army, Musharraf planned to seek another five-year
term as president from the sitting parliament by October 15, Sayed said.
A general election is due by mid-January.

The PML and its allies have a majority in parliament, but several members
of the ruling coalition have reservations about voting Musharraf another
term while he remains in uniform.

But Pakistan's Election Commission yesterday said it has changed a rule
so that a key article of the constitution no longer applies to Musharraf
- apparently allowing him to seek a new five-year term as president while
still serving as army chief.

"The chief election commissioner of Pakistan has made the requisite
amendment, with the approval of the president," the commission said in a


(China Daily 09/18/2007 page7)



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