Musharraf will remain army chief if not re-elected as president


27 September, 2007

Pakistan’s President General Pervez Musharraf will retain his military post if he is not re-elected as president in the elections to be held on October 6, 2007.

Pakistan’s Attorney-General Malik Muhamad Qayyum announced this during a Supreme Court hearing on several petitions challenging General Musharraf’s eligibility to contest the elections.

Later, outside the court, Qayyum said there was no retirement age for a four-star general and that the chief of the army staff post was a “tenure post.” He said that if Musharraf did not seek re-election, then he would remain as army chief until a successor was appointed.

Opposition politicians had vowed to besiege the court and the Election Commission with protests. The government had detained over 100 Opposition activists who had planned rallies against Musharraf’s re-election. All those arrested belonged to an opposition alliance, the All-Party Democratic Movement, that opposes Musharraf’s election as president while he is chief of army staff.

In an unusual step, the United States’ Embassy in Islamabad expressed serious concerns over the arrests. The Bush administration has been rather reserved in criticizing Musharraf, who is considered as America’s close ally in the fight against terrorism.

Musharraf, who ousted Nawaz Sharif, the elected prime minister, and took power in 1999, is now seeking a five-year term as president. He has said he will submit his nomination papers on September 27, 2007, to take part in the October 6, 2007 elections by national and provincial assemblies.

In Washington, Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto criticised Musharraf’s record on terrorism, saying that past civilian governments had done better. She blamed the military rule for the “anarchic” situation in Pakistan.

Benazir Bhutto, however, said that her Pakistan People’s Party would not join other Opposition parties in resigning from the various assemblies provided Musharraf retired before October 6, 2007 as army chief and repealed his ban on prime ministers serving more than two terms – a ban widely seen as aimed at her and Nawaz Sharif.

In a speech sponsored by the Washington-based Middle East Institute, a policy group, Benazir Bhutto said that, while she did not expect to be arrested upon her announced return on October 18, 2007 from exile, she herself was twice ousted from office over corruption charges. She added that she was “prepared for the worst.”

When Nawaz Sharif attempted to return to Pakistan on September 10, 2007, he was deported to Saudi Arabia.

It may be noted that Benazir Bhutto has been severely criticized for having held secret talks with Musharraf, reportedly seeking his consent for her to run again for prime minister without facing corruption charges, in return for her political support.

But, she insisted that she was not “bailing out a dictatorship” and that, instead, was trying to impress on the General the need to take “concrete steps” towards civilian rule.





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