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Pakistan President Confirms Plans To Remain Army Chief


Pakistani President General Pervez Musharraf is confirming plans to keep his dual role as armed forces chief and head of state, and says he will soon explain why he is going back on plans to retire from the military.

President Musharraf says he will address the nation in the coming days to discuss his decision to stay on as chief of the armed services.

The remarks, made to the Karachi-based Kawish Television Network, confirmed previous indications by the president that he would remain in control of the military, despite criticism by opposition political parties. Earlier this month, the president's supporters in parliament passed a law allowing him to stay in both posts through 2007.

General Musharraf took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, and was later confirmed as president through a referendum.

His dual role as political and military leader has long been criticized by the Muttahida Majlis-e Amal, or MMA, an alliance of religious parties, which serves as Pakistans main political opposition.

They say the two posts give him too much power, and that his dual role is dangerous in light of Pakistans past history of military dictatorship.

Late last year, the MMA made a deal with the pro-Musharraf ruling party to support expanding the powers of the president, in exchange for Mr. Musharraf leaving the military by the end of 2004.

Following indications earlier this year that the president would stay on as armed forces chief, the MMA launched a series of protests, expected to culminate in a rally near army headquarters on Sunday.

Political commentator Ayaz Amir says the MMA feels betrayed.

"Theyve been made to look a bit foolish by the military, by the president, and, I think, there is a genuine anger within the MMA that they were taken for a ride," said Ayaz Amir.

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