Musharraf to stay beyond 2007: Govt

Associated Press

Islamabad, May 17:

President Gen Pervez Musharraf will stay on as Pakistan’s leader beyond 2007, a government spokesman said today, despite earlier indications that he would stand down by that time.

“Musharraf will remain the president of Pakistan even after 2007,” Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said. He said the parliament would give Musharraf a mandate to stay as president after the next parliamentary elections to be held in 2007. Musharraf’s mandate as president is set to end in the same year. After seizing power in a military coup in 1999, Musharraf held elections in 2002 but his failure to resign as the army chief in December 2004 as per his promise has raised doubts about his commitment to democracy.

After the 2002 polls, Musharraf notionally handed over day-to-day control of the country to an elected government, but the military leader, who has also faced much criticism for his support of the US-led war on terrorism, is still the dominant force in country.

Meanwhile, another report said Musharraf has moved to end a bitter row in the ruling Pakistan Muslim League (PML), urging its leaders to display “political sagacity” in the interest of the country’s economic development. He was silent on reports of a leadership change at the party and government levels following the spat between PML chief Shujaat Hussain and party leader Zafarullah Khan Jamali, both of whom are former prime ministers.

“The senior leaders of the party should dispel any misperceptions regarding disunity in the ranks of the party,” Musharraf told a meeting of PML leaders at the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the president’s official residence.

This is the first time Musharraf has publicly referred to the Hussain-Jamali tussle, which has resulted in intense bickering within the PML rank and file. Jamali, who had become PM after the October 2002 general election, had stepped down 20 months later in favour of Hussain. He is known to be still fuming over his removal and has sought a one-to-one meeting with Hussain to resolve the issue.