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Pervez plans power ploy

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is planning to give up his uniform, but not before a paradigm shift in his country's power structure. It's believed he's planning to dilute the power of the Army chief, the post he's promised to quit before the 2007 general elections. Presently, Musharraf has nine corps commanders (of Lt General rank) under him; together, they function as Pakistan's board of directors. Government sources say he's planning an ordinance that will create posts for two regional commands a northern commander and a southern commander.

india Updated: Jun 11, 2006 01:24 IST

May clip army chief’s wings before stepdown

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is planning to give up his uniform, but not before a paradigm shift in his country's power structure. It's believed he's planning to dilute the power of the Army chief, the post he's promised to quit before the 2007 general elections.

Presently, Musharraf has nine corps commanders (of Lt General rank) under him; together, they function as Pakistan's board of directors. Government sources say he's planning an ordinance that will create posts for two regional commands — a northern commander and a southern commander (India has such regional commands).

These regional commanders, sources say, will be full Generals, like the Army chief. The nine corps commanders will report to them (four to one, five to the other). This will dilute the army chief's power in two ways. One, being of nearly the same rank, the regional commanders will keep an eye on him. Two, he cannot conspire with the corps commanders without the regional commanders knowledge (coups in Pakistan are carried out by key corps like the one in Rawalpindi).

Musharraf is apparently doing this because he's seriously considering fulfilling his promise to shed his uniform before elections. The current national assembly will expire in November 2007. By law, the President can be re-elected within 60 days prior to the end of the assembly's life. The elections, however, can be called within 90 days after the assembly's expiry. The President evidently plans to re-elect himself.

Musharraf seems confident that the opposition political parties will be unable to dislodge him. The Charter for Democracy, which includes Nawaz Sharif's PML and Benazir Bhutto's PPP, does not appear to be working on the ground. Benazir is suspected of keeping a channel open with the army. And there's no common political agenda to send the army back to the barracks.

On the other hand, Musharraf's advisers are cautioning him about the worsening situation in Balochistan, and increasing US pressure vis-à-vis Afghanistan. They are seeking ways for him to consolidate power while giving up the top army post.