Pakistan's presidential elections will be held in the first week of October in which General Pervez Mushrraf will stand for re-election from a parliament where he enjoys a comfortable majority, ruling party members have said.
What is more significant is the fact that General Musharraf will quit his position as chief of the army staff once re-elected as President. In the presidential poll, which is conducted through parliament, the President’s wife, Sehba Musharraf, could well be his cover candidate.
Secretary-General Pakistan Muslim League (Q) Mushahid Hussain Syed confirmed both the date of the proposed election as well as the fact that the General will take retirement from the army. The President of the PML-Q, Chaudhry Shujat Husain, has referred to the possibility of Sehba Musharraf being fielded as the cover candidate.
The ruling party has also welcomed the decision of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto to return to Pakistan on October 18, well after the proposed presidential elections. Mushahid Hussain said her return "is timely, which shows she doesn't want to sabotage the presidential election".
Hussain also confirmed that dialogue with Bhutto was underway and "there is stronger possibility of its success". Replying to a question, he said the ruling Muslim League and allied parties had the required majority in the existing assemblies to re-elect President Musharraf.
Separately, Gen. Musharraf told a visiting US Congressional delegation on Saturday there were no safe havens for terrorists on Pakistani soil, an official statement said. He reiterated Pakistan's "strong resolve to fight extremism and terrorism" during a meeting with a US delegation led by House Republican Leader John Boehner in Rawalpindi.
"The president said there was no safe haven for terrorists and that Pakistan was determined not to allow its territory to be used by anyone for terrorist activity," the statement said.
In recent weeks, some US officials have alleged senior Al-Qaeda leaders were continuing to operate from "secure hideouts" in Pakistan. Islamabad denies the charge.
Pakistan says it has arrested more than 700 Al-Qaeda operatives since the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States. It has also deployed around 90,000 troops to hunt down Al-Qaeda fugitives who crossed the border after the ouster of the fundamentalist Taliban in late 2001. Nearly 800 Pakistani soldiers have died in clashes with militants.