Commanders back COAS on uniform

Published August 8, 2003

ISLAMABAD, Aug. 7: Corps Commanders have unanimously expressed their confidence in the leadership of President Gen Pervez Musharraf, endorsing his point of view that no timeframe could be given for the removal of his military uniform.

Sources told Dawn that during the Corps Commanders’ meeting, held on Wednesday under the chairmanship of President Musharraf, it was also decided that no dictation should be accepted to shed his military uniform.

The federal cabinet, presided over by Mir Zafarullah Khan Jamali, was informed about some of the decisions of the Corps Commanders’ meeting on Thursday.

Sources said that no immediate breakthrough was likely in government-opposition talks to resolve various disputed issues. After the cabinet meeting, the prime minister met Chaudhry Shujaat Hussain at the latter’s residence and reportedly discussed with him important issues relating to the president’s military uniform. Punjab Chief Minister Chaudhry Pervez Illahi was also present during an-hour-long meeting.

Sources said that negotiators, conducting talks on behalf of the president, had clearly told members of the cabinet as well as the MMA leadership that there was no question about compromising over the holding of dual offices by Gen Musharraf.

The president was of the view that the decision on the issue of his military uniform should be left to him and that due to various internal and international compulsions, he needed to be the head of the state and Chief of the Army Staff at the same time at least in the foreseeable future.

Sources said that the president had also separately told the prime minister and his military colleagues that if the opposition “behaved” and helped in the smooth running of the parliament, he could remove his military uniform before time.

The situation, sources said, had become difficult after the Jamaat-i-Islami gave a new draft to the government to resolve a a 10-month-long controversy over the presidential powers.

Sources said that the cabinet had been informed on behalf of the president that there would be “no give and take” in this connection. Assurances were offered on the behalf of the president that democracy would not be derailed but then the opposition would have to take into account the prevailing international environment, specially relations with India and Afghanistan, situation in Iraq and serious internal matters like religious extremism that often results in terrorist activities.

Sources said the president believed that he did not introduce political restructuring to make compromises and that there would be no basic change in LFO.

During the cabinet meeting, the prime minister said that he wanted a comprehensive and conclusive dialogue with the opposition on all contentious issues. However, he said some issues still required time and expressed hope that the opposition would avoid pushing things in haste and avoid a “breakdown” in talks.

Mr Jamali, sources said, also told his cabinet colleagues that the parliament was the best forum to discuss political issues. He was of the view that the opposition would not get any mileage by holding public meetings against the LFO or issues connected with the president’s uniform.

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