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Last Updated: Tuesday, 18 September 2007, 12:36 GMT 13:36 UK
Musharraf to 'give up army post'
Pervez Musharraf
There has been pressure on Gen Musharraf to resign his army post
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf will give up his post of army chief if he is re-elected for another term of office, his chief lawyer has said.

In a statement to the Supreme Court, the lawyer said that if Gen Musharraf won the election, he would be sworn in for a new term as a civilian.

He is seeking re-election by parliament before its term expires in mid-October.

On Monday, the Supreme Court began debating his right to remain army chief if he stood for president again.

"If elected for a second term as president, General Pervez Musharraf shall relinquish charge of office of chief of army staff soon after election and before taking oath of office as president," his chief lawyer, Sharifuddin Pirzada, told the court.

The country's largest political party, Benazir Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP), has been holding negotiations about a possible power-sharing deal in which they have demanded that Gen Musharraf step down from his military role.

Petitions

On Monday, the Election Commission changed electoral rules that could help Gen Musharraf's re-election plans.

KEY DATES
23 Aug: Supreme Court says exiled ex-PM Nawaz Sharif can return
10 Sep: Mr Sharif arrested and deported to Saudi Arabia on his return to Pakistan
11 Sep: Lawyers for Mr Sharif challenge his deportation in the Supreme Court
15 Sep-15 Oct: Timeframe Gen Musharraf has set for his re-election as president by parliament
18 Sep: Gen Musharraf's lawyer says he will quit as army chief if he is re-elected
18 Oct: Date ex-PM Benazir Bhutto has set for her homecoming
15 Nov: Parliamentary term ends and general election must be held

The commission said a constitutional rule that retiring state servants could not run for office until two years had elapsed did not apply to presidential candidates.

There had been growing opposition to controversial amendments - to the constitution and in parliament - allowing Gen Musharraf to be both president and army chief until November 2007.

The BBC's Barbara Plett in Islamabad says the Supreme Court still has to decide whether Gen Musharraf can stand for election while remaining head of the army or even as a retired general.

Observers believe Tuesday's statement is probably a message to the judges that there is now no need to rule against his dual position - but this may not be enough, our correspondent says.
HAVE YOUR SAY
Me and most Pakistanis doubt his promise. It's a political stunt to gain time
Arif Khan

Ms Bhutto's PPP was swift to say the president could not stand for office again while still army chief - and should have to wait two years before seeking re-election.

"Gen Musharraf's decision to get himself re-elected in uniform is both unconstitutional and undemocratic," the party said.

"This kind of bending of electoral rules and constitutional laws will trigger political instability in Pakistan, which the country can ill afford."

The Supreme Court is hearing six petitions - from political parties and lawyers - seeking to disqualify Gen Musharraf as a presidential candidate.

The six petitions also oppose Gen Musharraf's plan to seek re-election from the current parliament and provincial assemblies, saying there should be general elections first.

Previous promise

It is not the first time Gen Musharraf has said he would step down as army chief.

In 2002, he promised members of Pakistan's Islamic parties that he would resign as head of the army by 2004 in return for their support for a constitutional amendment legitimising his 1999 military takeover.

The opposition believed the verbal promise was also enshrined in the amendment, an issue disputed by Gen Musharraf's advisers.

Instead, Gen Musharraf succeeded in getting parliament to pass an act with a simple majority giving him a one-time exemption to stay on in office until November 2007.

Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto announced on Friday that she intends to return to Pakistan from exile on 18 October to contest parliamentary elections, which must be announced by mid-November and held by mid-January.

She was said to have been in negotiations with Gen Musharraf over a deal that would allow her a third term as prime minister in exchange for her support for his plan to be re-elected president, correspondents say.



VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
Opposition reaction to Musharraf's statement



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