Musharraf 'to quit as army chief'

Pakistan president seeks re-election for a second term, but as a civilian leader.

    The Pakistani public still wonder what political role Bhutto will play upon returning to the country [EPA]
    But opposition groups are against Musharraf's aim to be re-elected by the outgoing parliament and provincial assemblies, saying that there should be a general election first.
     
    Power-sharing deal
     
    Leaders of the Democratic Alliance Front, consisting of more than 30 parties, have reportedly threatened to withdraw from parliament if Musharraf stands for a new term.
     

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    Pakistan's supreme court began hearing petitions on Monday by the groups arguing against Musharraf's bid to stay in power.

    Musharraf's plans for re-election have been a sticking point in negotiations with Benazir Bhutto, a former prime minister, for a possible power-sharing deal.

    Bhutto had announced on Friday that she intends to return to Pakistan on October 18, ending more than eight years of self-exile, with or without a deal.
     
    Kamal Hyder, Al Jazeera's correspondent in Pakistan, said: "The mood amongst most people in Pakistan is that whatever happens Musharraf should not be given another opportunity."
     
    "The opposition, including Benazir Bhutto, say that if the president tries to get himself elected by the present assembly, the she herself would tell her party to take to the streets because there would be no compromise."

    Pakistani authorities last week deported Nawaz Sharif, another former prime minister after he flew to Pakistan to launch a campaign to challenge Musharraf.
     
    Power 'diluted'
     
    Musharraf, an ally of George Bush, the US president, has held the post of army chief since he seized power in a military coup in 1999, despite calls from the opposition to surrender control of both offices.
     
    His acquiescence could be seen as a victory for Bhutto, who has said that any power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf will depend on him becoming a civilian president.
     
    Giving up the army role would undoubtedly dilute Musharraf's power in a country that has been ruled by generals for more than half the 60 years since it was founded.
     
    But aides say Musharraf has been reconciled to quitting the army for months, the Reuters news agency reports.
     
    If the court succeeds in blocking Musharraf's re-election he could resort to dissolving the assemblies and seeking a mandate from the parliament returned by the general election, or more drastically, he might opt for emergency rule or martial law, according to Reuters.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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