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September 17, 2007
Musharraf will resign from the Army
In a victory for moderate secular forces in Pakistan, President Pervez Musharraf will reportedly resign from the army by November 15:
"We expect that after his re-election process next month, God willing, General Musharraf would take his oath of office as a civilian president before November 15," Senator Mushahid Hussain Sayed, secretary-general of the Pakistan Muslim League (PML), told Reuters. Two significant points should be made. First, the concurrence of the religious parties with this move bodes well for the parliamentary elections to be held sometime in December or early January next year. It is no accident that the announcement came from the head of the powerful PML. His blessing assures full participation by all Pakistanis in the political process. There was talk that the religious parties would boycott the elections unless Musharraf resigned from the army. Those fears are now laid to rest.
U.S. ally Musharraf retained the post of army chief after he seized power in a military coup in 1999, despite calls from the opposition to quit the dual office. His acquiescence could be seen as a victory for Benazir Bhutto, who has said that any power-sharing arrangement with Musharraf would depend, among other things, on him becoming a civilian president.
Secondly, Benazir Bhutto's return from exile next month opens the possibility for a coalition civilian government with the support of the military - a necessity in Pakistan. How the relationship between Musharraf and Bhutto progresses will have much to do with the stability of the new government. In the past, the Military has not hesitated to take control when the civilian government has become too fractious. With Musharraf out of the army, at least the military will give the civilians a little more leeway.
The is good news for the United States as Pakistan's stability is crucial to Afghanistan and our efforts in the War on Terror. Rule by a Bhutto-led coalition will probably mean that Pakistan distances itself in some ways from the US. But it also means that this vital country will enjoy a little more security and stability when the handover of power is complete.