( Reuters ) - Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf named his successor as army chief on Tuesday as more than 80 opposition members of parliament resigned to protest against the president's bid to seek re-election.
General Musharraf, a close U.S. ally and leader of the only nuclear-armed Islamic nation, looks set to win re-election on Saturday in votes by the two-chamber parliament and four provincial assemblies.
He has vowed that, if re-elected, he would quit as army chief before being sworn in for a new term by November 15 and would rule as a civilian leader.
The designation of Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani as his successor is the clearest indication yet that Musharraf will follow through with his promise and give up his uniform.
"Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has been appointed vice chief of the army staff," a military official told Reuters.
"General Kayani will take over as chief of the army staff after this post falls vacant."
Chain-smoking Kayani had been director-general of the military's main security agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, until last month. He is well-regarded by U.S. counterparts, Western diplomats say.
Pakistan is an important non-NATO ally for the United States. Its support is regarded as crucial for the success of Western military efforts in Afghanistan, and in the hunt for Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda in tribal areas on the Afghan border.