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The General on house calls

world Updated: Nov 27, 2007 22:20 IST
Kamal Siddiqi & Agencies
Kamal Siddiqi & Agencies
Hindustan Times
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More than nine years after he took charge as Pakistan’s army chief, General Pervez Musharraf will finally retire from the position on Wednesday and be sworn in for another term as the country’s president — this time as a civilian.

The move comes after the Supreme Court cleared the way for Musharraf to be declared elected for another term after petitions objection to his candidature were dismissed. Ahead of his retirement, General Musharraf on Tuesday paid farewell visits as Army Chief to the headquarters of the armed forces.

His first stop was at the Joint Staff headquarters, where Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee Gen. Tariq Majid received him. Musharraf later paid a farewell visit to naval headquarter, where he met Chief of Naval Staff Admiral Muhammad Afzal Tahir and other senior officers.

It is expected that General Musharraf will be sworn in as Pakistan’s 13th president soon after he retires. Former Federal Minister for Railways and leader of PML(Q) Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Tuesday that President Musharraf will take oath on Wednesday or Thursday.

“General Musharraf will make a series of farewell visits to various military headquarters on Tuesday and Wednesday,” presidential spokesman Rashid Qureshi was quoted as saying.

On Wednesday, he will be driven to the army's general headquarters to hand over his position as head of the army to his successor, Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani. Musharraf designated Gen Kayani, a former head of the intelligence services, as his successor as army head in October.

As a civilian leader, President Musharraf would still have considerable powers, including the power to sack a civilian government. General elections are to be held on 9 January, but President Musharraf has yet to say when the emergency will be lifted.

The former commando was appointed as Army Chief on October 7, 1998 by Sharif, who promoted him over several other officers. The two men soon fell out over differences on various issues, including the incursion into Kargil in Jammu and Kashmir that was planned and executed by Musharraf.

Musharraf, the longest serving chief of the Pakistan Army after late Gen Zia-ul-Haq, has asserted that he has the complete support of the powerful army and that the military would continue to back him even after he doffed his uniform.

There has been intense pressure on Musharraf from the international community to take off his uniform but his decision to quit as Army Chief may not be enough to placate opposition leaders like Sharif, who vowed to end dictatorship.

The Supreme Court comprising Musharraf's hand-picked judges last week validated his victory in the October 6 presidential poll.