Musharraf as civilian President left with vastly reduced powers

November 29th, 2007 - 4:01 pm ICT by admin  

Islamabad, Nov 29 (ANI): A day after resigning as Army Chief, Pervez Musharraf took oath as a civilian President on Thursday, leaving him with vastly reduced powers and left Washington with a far more complex Pakistan to deal with in its fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Musharraf bowing reluctantly to pressure at home and abroad, relinquished his military role at a sombre ceremony on Wednesday, ending eight years of military rule.
He turned over control of the army to General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, a former head of the Inter Services Intelligence, who is considered loyal to his former boss.
Yet the move sets up the potential of competing power centres in Pakistan, with a new Army Chief separate from the President and the recent return from exile of the country’s two main opposition leaders.
That is likely to complicate the Bush Administration anti-terrorism policy here, something officials in Washington had been hoping to avoid, and one reason they have supported Musharraf for so long.
In recent months, senior army commanders increasingly grumbled that Musharraf was so engrossed in his own political survival that he had become distracted from battling the country’s fast spreading insurgency, Western military officials said.
Having a full time Army Chief would help the Pakistan military, The International Herald Tribune quoted Western military officials, as saying.
Kiyani is expected to remove the army from the centre of politics and focus on military tasks, something that will be welcomed in Washington, where he has been praised by Bush administration officials as someone they can work with.
He has played a prominent role already in cooperating with the US in the fight against terrorism, and is expected to continue that policy.
Musharraf would confront considerable political challenges in his new role, but he will now have to deal with them without being able to leverage the authority of the military for himself.
Musharraf remains under intense pressure to lift the emergency, which suspended the Constitution and the Supreme Court, and has been criticised by opponents and Western diplomats as a blatant move to have his election as President confirmed.
Before giving up his army post, Musharraf transferred the power to lift de facto martial law to the presidency through a decree last week. Therefore, to what extent emergency rule will be eased remains in his hands.
He is also under pressure to free scores of lawyers and judges who had taken to the streets earlier this month to protest the emergency and were placed under house arrest. Once freed, they are likely to resume their campaign against Musharraf.
With parliamentary elections set for January 8, Musharraf will also have to deal with two formidable political opponents, former Prime Ministers Benazir Bhutto, and Nawaz Sharif.
Both have called for Musharraf’s resignation as president and for changes in the Constitution to curb the president’s powers over parliament.
While the military under Kiyani is likely to support Musharraf as President, it is unlikely to intervene to save him in political tests of will, former general and political analyst, Talat Masood, said.
One indication of the mood is a letter that a group of 20 former generals, air marshals and admirals, including Masood, sent this week to Musharraf, calling on him to resign as head of state as well as Army Chief.
“The actions he is taking are really detrimental to the state,” Masood said. They had encouraged other countries to interfere in Pakistan’s affairs, specifically Saudi Arabia and America, in a way they never had before, and caused Pakistan to lose international respect, he said.
He also criticised Musharraf for suggesting that Pakistan’s nuclear weapons would not be safe if he were not in power, which he said, was simply untrue.
One of the hardest things for Musharraf now may be to cease giving commands.
While no longer controlling the army, Musharraf will retain some levers of influence both within the military and the intelligence services, like his personal relationship with Lt. General Nadeem Taj, the head of the ISI, military officials said.
Much depends on who forms a government after parliamentary elections, since military appointments among other things technically resides with the Prime Minister, said Najam Sethi, the editor of the Daily Times.
Musharraf has often talked of the need for harmony between the presidency, the judiciary and the army, and in particular between the President, Prime Minister and Chief of Army Staff. (ANI)

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