Musharraf will quit army, says official
( Theage ) President Pervez Musharraf plans to quit as army chief to become a civilian leader, removing a key 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 ruling Pakistan Muslim League.
General Musharraf has held the post of army chief since he seized power in a military coup in 1999 despite calls from the opposition to quit the dual office.
His acquiescence could be seen as a victory for Benazir Bhutto, who has said that any power-sharing arrangement with General Musharraf will depend, among other things, on him becoming a civilian president.
Ms 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 General Musharraf's power in a country that has been ruled by the military for more than half of the 60 years since it was founded. It will also be a wrench for a life-long soldier, but aides say he has reconciled to quitting the army for months.
Senator Sayed said General Musharraf would abide by the constitution and quit the army before the end of this year.
"Yes, I have no doubt that the President will keep his commitment," said Senator Sayed , who recently met General Musharraf . "He is clear on this issue."
Before quitting the army, General Musharraf plans to seek another five-year term as president from the sitting parliament by October 15, Senator Sayed said.
The PML and its allies have a majority in parliament to elect General Musharraf , but several members of the ruling coalition have expressed reservations over his re-election while remaining in uniform.
An alliance of opposition parties has threatened to resign from parliament if General Musharraf went ahead with his plans. A walk-out would not affect the election but it would dent its credibility.
However, the most significant threat to General Musharraf's plans could be the country's Supreme Court, which is regarded as hostile to the US ally after his ill-fated attempt to fire the Chief Justice.
Today, the court is taking up a number of legal challenges thrown up by opposition parties and lawyers' bodies against General Musharraf's bid for re-election and keeping the dual offices of president and army chief.