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Last Updated: Tuesday, 13 April, 2004, 15:01 GMT 16:01 UK
Musharraf army role undecided
By Zaffar Abbas
BBC correspondent in Islamabad

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf on Hard Talk
Musharraf said the Islamic alliance had not honoured pledges
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has said he has still not decided whether to step down as chief of the army by the end of the year.

His comments on BBC World's HARDTalk programme were in contrast to his public commitment to quit the post and become solely civilian head of state.

His remarks have sent shock waves through the nation's political circles.

The president's pledge to quit the army post helped him win a vital confidence vote at the start of the year.

It seems that because of the uncertain political and security situation in the country, President Musharraf has now decided to keep his options open.

Additional powers

His reluctance to honour the commitment suggests he is giving serious thought to a request by some members of the governing coalition not to quit as army chief.

On Monday, 18 MPs from one of the coalition parties formally asked him to retain both the posts of president and army chief to ensure stability and security.

In the HARDTalk interview, the president was repeatedly asked whether he was to step down as head of the army by the end of this year, but refused to give a direct reply.

Instead he criticised the opposition Islamic alliance, the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA), for not honouring its part of the commitment that led him to pledge to quit the post.

Although a constitutional amendment last year gave President Musharraf additional powers to dismiss parliament, he still draws his strength from the country's powerful military.

But legal experts say it is difficult to see how he can wriggle out of the situation and retain his military post, particularly when the amendment clearly states that by the end of 2004 the president cannot hold any other office.

Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed says he is confident the president will quit as army head by the stated time.

You can see the HARDTalk interview in full on BBC World on Wednesday at 1630 GMT.


WATCH AND LISTEN
General Pervez Musharraf, President of Pakistan
"Once I remove the uniform I will be a civilian"


Mohammed Hanif, BBC Urdu Service
"He can only keep one post"



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