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Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Musharraf Visits MilitaryIn Final Role as Army Chief
Associated PressNovember 27, 2007 11:11 a.m.
RAWALPINDI, Pakistan -- President Gen. Pervez Musharraf bade farewell to the military Tuesday, a day before he planned to step down as army chief and restore Pakistan to civilian rule in an effort to ease the country's political crisis.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Gen. Musharraf ousted in a 1999 coup, said the president's departure from the army would make "a lot of difference," but insisted he needed to do much more to defuse tensions. Relinquishing the post of army chief has been a key demand of an increasingly adamant opposition to Gen. Musharraf both at home and abroad.

Chief Air Marshal Tanvir Mahmood (left) introduced senior Pakistani air force officers to President Gen. Pervez Musharraf (center) on his farewell visit to the air force headquarters in Islamabad Tuesday.
A guard of honor of about 150 army, navy and air force troops stood at attention as Gen. Musharraf arrived at the army headquarters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. A military band played the national anthem as a grim-faced Gen. Musharraf, wearing a green-and-white sash over his uniform and medals, inspected the troops on a small parade ground. He held a brief closed-door meeting with other senior commanders, then traveled to the head offices of the navy and air force in the nearby capital, Islamabad.
Gen. Musharraf, who has dominated Pakistan for nearly eight years, has faced growing opposition since March, when he tried unsuccessfully to fire the country's top judge. The turmoil intensified when he declared emergency rule earlier this month and launched a crackdown on critics in the opposition and the media. The general has purged the courts and quickly obtained a Supreme Court ruling validating his victory in a disputed presidential election last month.
Gen. Musharraf faces strong criticism from two key opponents -- Mr. Sharif and Benazir Bhutto -- both former prime ministers who have returned from exile in time for Jan. 8 parliamentary elections.
Speaking to reporters at his home in the eastern city of Lahore, Mr. Sharif said Tuesday that Gen. Musharraf must lift the emergency and reinstate the ousted judges in order to ensure the elections are fair -- a condition the president is highly unlikely to meet.
Gen. Musharraf has already made a string of concessions, freeing thousands of detained opponents and allowing all but one independent television news channel to resume its broadcasts. Still, he has suggested that the emergency will remain in place until after the elections.
Copyright © 2007 Associated Press

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