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Mr President, not General Musharraf

world Updated: Sep 18, 2007 22:44 IST
Kamal Siddiqi
Kamal Siddiqi
Hindustan Times
General Pervez Musharraf

It's official. A day after a ruling party official said that General Pervez Musharraf would shed his uniform if re-elected Pakistan President, his counsel made the same commitment to the country's Supreme Court on Tuesday.

"If elected for a second term as president, General Pervez Musharraf shall relinquish charge of office of chief of army staff soon after election and before taking oath of office as president," his chief lawyer, Sharifuddin Pirzada, told the Court.

Tuesday's statement is being interpreted as the government's assurance that General Musharraf will step down within the month. At present, the apex court is hearing six petitions seeking to disqualify Gen Musharraf as a presidential candidate.

The petitions have been filed by, among others, the Jamaat-e-Islami, former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and an association of lawyers. The six petitions also oppose Gen Musharraf's plan to seek re-election by the outgoing parliament.

This statement has caused much heartburn in political quarters: they feel a pre-condition in place for the President to resign from his position as Chief of the Army Staff after re-election is not acceptable.

There is a "strong possibility" that MPs from Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party will quit parliament if President Musharraf goes ahead with his move of seeking re-election as president while in uniform.

"We are discussing this line of action at a meeting of our Central Executive Committee which will meet shortly," PPP Secretary General Shah Mehmood Qureshi told the Hindustan Times from his ancestral home in Multan.

Qureshi said that the move to re-elect General Musharraf in uniform and then have him resign from his position as army chief is "not at all acceptable to our party". He denied rumours that the deal between General Musharraf and Ms Bhutto was in its final stages.

The PPP Secretary General said a possible understanding between General Musharraf and Ms Benazir Bhutto "in the cause of democracy" was being obstructed "by people who cannot see beyond their nose and are against democracy in Pakistan".

Almost all the opposition political parties in the country have threatened to resign from parliament ahead of the presidential elections, which are scheduled for October 2007. The President's term expires on November 15, 2007.

Tariq Azeem, a senior official of the ruling PML-Q party claims that the president enjoys 56 per cent votes in the parliament, which should see him re-elected for another five-year term.