I have excellent relations with Kiyani: Musharraf

By Muhammad Najeeb, IANS

Islamabad : Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he has an excellent working relationship with newly appointed army vice chief Gen. Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani and that in future all three – the president, the army chief and the prime minister – will work in close coordination.

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He made a rather startling declaration that the Inter-Services Intelligence Directorate (ISID) that has been accused of meddling in the country’s affairs for the last 50 years would have no role to play in the new dispensation after the Oct 6 presidential election at which he is seeking a second term in office.

The president made the statements during an interview with GEO TV that will be aired Wednesday night. Kiyani will succeed Musharraf when he steps down as army chief by Nov 15.

Interviewer Kamran Khan said the interaction lasted 90 minutes, during which Musharraf discussed in detail his future plans. GEO TV also broadcast excerpts from the interview.

“I will get elected from the present assemblies but would take a vote of confidence from the new parliament,” Musharraf said.

He said he has full confidence that his role as president will be beneficial for the nation and for the people.

The president, who is under tremendous domestic and international pressure to quit as army chief, said that he would doff the uniform between the Oct 6 presidential election and Nov 15. Musharraf is certain to win a second five-year term.

Media reports have suggested that former prime minister and Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) chief Benazir Bhutto, who is negotiating a power-sharing deal with Musharraf, had recommended Kiyani.

Kiyani, who till last week headed the ISID, is said to have masterminded the Bhutto-Musharraf talks.

Musharraf said that as president he would make sure the army’s Military Intelligence (MI) wing played absolutely no role in politics while the role of Inter-Services Intelligence will be eliminated.

He also justified his talks with the PPP, saying this was for the betterment of the country.

Musharraf said that growing fundamentalism in the country pointed to the need for a liberal party like the PPP. He said he favoured national reconciliation and his talks with the PPP were part of his efforts towards achieving this goal.

The president, who sent back another former prime minister Nawaz Sharif into exile when he tried to enter the country Sep 10, said he was ready to talk to Sharif as well.

After winning the elections, he would invite all parties, as also Sharif, to a national reconciliation meeting.

He said general elections will be held within two months from Nov 15, when the present parliament completes its five-year term. He said that this is for the first time in country’s history that the assemblies would be completing their full term.

Musharaf was hopeful that the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) would win the next general election. At the same time, an effort would be made to include PPP in the government.

Talking about the opposition resignations ahead of the presidential polls, the president said this did not worry him.

“Even in the general elections, just 40 to 45 percent people vote…so what if the opposition has resigned from the assemblies,” the president said.

Lawmakers of the opposition All Parties Democratic Movement (APDM) have resigned from the national and provincial assemblies in a bid to block Musharraf’s bid.