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Over to Gen Kiani
Musharraf bids farewell to arms
Afzal Khan writes from Islamabad

President Gen Pervez Musharraf paid farewell visits to the naval and air force headquarters on Tuesday, a day before he quits as army chief, as he braces for what is regarded as one of the most difficult moments in his eight-year rule to shed the uniform he had once described his “second skin”.

The defence ministry has issued formal notification of his retirement from the army. Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kiani will take over as the new chief of army staff at a special ceremony on Wednesday. Musharraf will attend the ceremony which will be preceded by a meeting of corps commanders. The chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee, Gen Tariq Majyd, hosted a grand dinner tonight in Musharraf’s honour.

Meanwhile, Musharraf will be sworn in as the President for another five-year term on Thursday at the “Aiwan-e-Sadr” (Presidency) in Islamabad which will also be his next abode after he leaves the Army House in Rawalpindi. Even after anointing himself as president in June, 2001, he preferred to stay in that house, located amidst a complex of military headquarters that forms the core of military power in the country.

Musharraf (64), who will continue to be the supreme commander of the armed forces as president, was named army chief on October 7, 1998, by then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whom he toppled a year later. He replaced Rafiq Tarrar as President in June, 2001, and then held a dubious referendum in April, 2002, in an extra-constitutional move and on this basis took oath as President on November 16, 2002, for five more years.

Parliament indemnified the referendum in December, 2003, amid promise by Musharraf that he would shed his uniform within a year. But he reneged on that promise and has clung to the post to this day.

General Kiani, 54, is regarded as a professional and was carefully chosen by Musharraf whom he served as chief of country’s main spy agency, the Inter Services Intelligence for the past three years.

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