Islamabad, Oct. 2 (Reuters): Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf named his successor as army chief today as 100 Opposition MPs resigned to protest against the President’s bid to seek re-election.
Chain-smoking Lieutenant-General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani had been director-general of the military’s main security agency, the Inter-Services Intelligence, since 2004. He is well-regarded by US counterparts, western diplomats say. He beat several fellow corps commanders in a closely fought race for the top army slot.
Kayani has been promoted to the rank of full general and appointed as the vice-chief of army staff. He will assume charge of his new post on October 8. “Kiyani will assume office of the chief of army staff on vacation of that office,” a statement by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), said.
Musharraf has vowed that, if re-elected, he would quit as army chief before being sworn in for a new term by November 15 and would rule as a civilian leader. The designation of Kayani as his successor is the clearest indication yet that Musharraf will follow through with his promise and give up his uniform.
In a major boost to Musharraf last week, the supreme court dismissed challenges to his re-election while still army chief. The election commission also rejected Opposition objections.
Kayani was deputy military secretary to then Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto during her first government in the late 1980s. Bhutto has been in talks with Musharraf on a power-sharing deal and Kayani was involved in the discussions.
Today, more than 100 legislators belonging to the All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) resigned from national and provincial Assemblies in protest against Musharraf’s bid for re-election as President for a second term.
In Islamabad, top leaders of the movement comprising all leading Opposition parties, Bhutto’s Pakistan People’s Party, handed over the resignations to the speaker of the National Assembly, Chaudhry Amir Hussain.
“In all, 87 APDM members, including 62 from the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance, 22 from the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) and one each from Imran Khan’s Tehrik-e-Insaf, Pakistan, Jamait-ul Ulema-e-Pakistan and Pakhtoon Khwa Milli Awami Party, resigned from the National Assembly,” a senior official in the speaker’s office told The Telegraph.
Opposition members of three provincial Assemblies also resigned in Lahore, Karachi and Quetta — the capitals of Punjab, Sindh and Baluchistan. A total of 46 members resigned in Punjab, 25 in Baluchistan and seven in Sindh. Opposition lawyers are mounting a final legal challenge, filing a petition in the supreme court seeking a bar on Musharraf running for re-election as army chief and the postponement of the vote.