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Musharraf may shed uniform for deal

Pakistan’s embattled President Pervez Musharraf may quit as army chief in return for support from political parties to re-elect him for another term, a newspaper reported.

world Updated: Aug 29, 2007 02:44 IST
Zeeshan Haider

Pakistan’s embattled President Pervez Musharraf may quit as army chief in return for support from political parties to re-elect him for another term, a newspaper reported on Tuesday.

The offer is being discussed by Musharraf’s aides with self-exiled former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in London as part of a power-sharing pact, the Dawn newspaper said.

Musharraf, who has seen his popularity plummet in recent months, wants to get re-elected president for another five years between mid-September and mid-October, before his term as army chief expires at the end of the year.

Under his plan, a general election will then be held at the end of the year or early next year.

But US ally Musharraf faces opposition — legal challenges on constitutional grounds and perhaps even street protests — raising concern about stability in the nuclear-armed country seen as vital to efforts to tackle terrorism and pacify Afghanistan.

An agreement with two-time prime minister Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party is seen as the country’s most popular party, would help Musharraf secure another term.

But Bhutto is insisting he stand down as army chief before he runs for re-election.

“President Musharraf has offered to doff the uniform even before the presidential elections,” the English-language Dawn reported.

A cabinet minister declined to comment except to say Musharraf had made up his mind on his uniform. “The uniform is no longer an issue,” said Railways Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, a close ally of the president’s.

“The president has made up his mind on his uniform and he’ll make an announcement at an appropriate time,” said Ahmed, who held talks with Musharraf on Monday.

IMMINENT CHALLENGE

Musharraf and liberal-minded Bhutto are seen as natural allies. They met for talks in Abu Dhabi last month.

The US is keen to see the two leaders cooperate. As well as demanding that Musharraf resign from the army, Bhutto, who has corruption charges hanging over her, wants immunity from prosecution and the lifting of a ban on a PM serving a third term.