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Musharraf determined to retain dual role

A media report says that the General is keen to retain his dual role as President and Army Chief of Staff for years to come.

india Updated: Aug 30, 2006 12:03 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, who has ruled the country for about seven years, is "determined" to retain his dual role as President and Army Chief of Staff for "years to come," a media report said, quoting people close to him.

Musharraf also plans to seek re-election for a second five-year term from the present parliament which he controls rather than the freshly elected one next year as his people do not want to take any chances, the report said.

"Our problem is just the usual vulnerabilities of incumbency," Secretary-General of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) Mushahid Hussain told Newsweek magazine, rejecting the suggestion that newly elected parliament next year would be the appropriate body for re-electing the President.

"Why shouldn't the same parliament elect the President twice for ten years?" he asked and denied that government is engaged in any wrongdoing.

The President is elected by both houses of parliament and the four provincial assemblies.

But Musharraf's critics, the report said, charge that if he seeks re-election from the current parliament, it would demonstrate that he and his military do not trust free and fair elections.

"Musharraf is increasingly seen by people as being more interested in perpetuating himself in power than in anything else," retired Pakistani Army Lt Gen Talat Masood told Newsweek.

"If he is re-elected by this Parliament, then Musharraf will become another (Hosni) Mubarak (of Egypt), staying in power for two decades or more."

That, the magazine said, is a troubling scenario, but it remains to be seen if the opposition, an uneasy and still potentially fractious alliance, can do anything about it.

Musharraf, the report said, can be proud of Pakistan's six per cent GDP growth over the past three years and of a 10 per cent reduction in the number of Pakistanis living below the poverty line in the last five.

But he and Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz have failed to curb inflation that is running at about nine per cent.

The resulting rise in prices for essentials such as sugar, wheat flour, rice and beans is squeezing most Pakistanis.

"It's the first shot of the opposition's election campaign to win over public opinion," says Samina Ahmed, the South Asia director of the International Crisis Group. "It's going to have an impact."

Meanwhile, former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, who are both in exile have begun cooperating and are pledging to return in time to campaign for general elections scheduled for late next year.

Several prominent Pakistanis, including retired Army generals and former Supreme Court Chief Justices, have written open letters to the President, asking him to retire from the armed forces and to hold free and fair elections next year under a caretaker government, the report said.