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Musharraf passes law to stay on as army chief -

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Musharraf passes law to stay on as army chief

AM - Friday, 15 October , 2004 08:24:00

Reporter: Geoff Thompson

TONY EASTLEY: It's almost five years to the day that Pakistan's President and military dictator
General Pervez Musaharraf came to power in a bloodless coup.

But now the key US ally in the war against terror has passed a law through his country's lower
house allowing him to stay on as army chief, despite an earlier pledge to give up his military
position by the end of this year.

South Asia Correspondent Geoff Thompson reports.

GEOFF THOMPSON: Just as September 11 defined the Presidency of George W. Bush, so did it set the
course of President Musharraf's soft iron grip on Pakistan. After two determined attempts on his
life last year, President Pervez Musharraf's military has been serious in its efforts to track down
terrorists on Pakistani soil.

Securing his ascendancy and re-igniting a semblance of democracy in Pakistan required President
Musharraf to cut a constitutional deal with an Islamist parliamentary opposition, requiring him to
step down as Pakistan's army chief at the end of the year. The deal even persuaded the Commonwealth
to invite Pakistan back into its fold.

But now President Musharraf is on track to backtrack on that commitment, and has just passed
through Pakistan's lower house a law allowing him to stay on as Pakistan's army chief beyond 2004.

Hasan Askar Rizvi is an expert on the Pakistani military.

HASAN ASKAR RIZVI: Let's say he makes the decision to stay on as army chief, then obviously the
total system depends on him, which is not a healthy situation in terms of the sustainability of the
political process.

GEOFF THOMPSON: President Musharraf argues that the terrorism threat in his country demands that he
keep wearing a military uniform - a threat highlighted overnight when Pakistani commandos attacked
militants holding two Chinese engineers hostage in South West Waziristan, near Pakistan's border
with Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Information Minister, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed.

SHEIKH RASHID AHMED: There was no option and there was no way out to take action and our armed
forces took action and we have killed all the five people who kidnapped these two Chinese.

GEOFF THOMPSON: One of the two hostage Chinese engineers was also killed in the raid, which ended
Pakistan's first real experience of an Iraq style hostage crisis.

A crisis which, no doubt, the United States did not want to linger on. Especially given that the
man said to be commanding the hostage-taking militants, the al-Qaeada linked Abdullah Mehsud, was a
former inmate of the US military prison at Guantanmao Bay, Cuba, before he was released to return
to Pakistan, after the Pentagon determined that he was no longer a threat to the United States.

This is Geoff Thompson reporting for AM.