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Junior Officers Involved in Assassination Attempt, says Pakistan's President - 2004-05-27

Pakistan's president and top military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, says junior army and air force officers were involved in two failed attempts on his life last year. The Pakistani leader escaped unhurt from the December bomb attacks on his motorcades.

President Musharraf made the revelations during an interview with local Geo Television news, adding that the junior officers in question are in police custody and will soon face trial.

If President Musharraf's allegations prove true, it would be the first time his own military tried to assassinate him since he took power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

Pakistani political commentator Ayaz Amir says the suspects are low-ranking officers and enlisted men, and that the president's still has strong support from senior military staff.

"It is nowhere like suggesting that the armed forces structure is split, and there are people with him and people against him. I mean, that would be far-fetched," said Ayaz Amir.

Since coming to power, General Musharraf has survived at least three assassination attempts.

Some Pakistani citizens are strongly opposed to his policies, particularly his alliance with the United States in its war on terror.

While Mr. Amir says some junior officers probably share these views, there is very little chance of an organized coup against the president.

In response to demands by the opposition political leaders, Mr. Musharraf says he will quit as either military chief or president by the end of this year.

Some observers say resigning from the army would severely weaken President Musharraf's power. But Mr. Amir suggests that even without his general's uniform, Mr. Musharraf would still hold authority.

"The worry would be psychological, that all right, here would be some other army chief calling the shots," he said. "More psychological than real."

Mr. Amir notes that General Ayub Khan, Pakistan's military ruler during the 1950s and 60s, also stepped down from his army post late in his career but was able to remain in control of the country.