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Musharraf on Verge of Relinquishing Military Title, Officials Say

“He is going to take oath as has been announced by government on the 29th, most probably, so he is going to take off his uniform a day before that,” Maj. Gen. Waheed Arshad told the Associated Press.

Spokesman Rashid Qureshi said Musharraf would make “farewell visits” to his troops before ending a military career that began in 1964. Musharraf planned to promote his anointed successor, Gen. Ashfaq Kayani, to the military chief post Wednesday, the aide told the AP.

Also Monday, former Pakistani prime minister and Musharraf rival, Nawaz Sharif, registered to run in Jan. 8 parliamentary elections. Sharif, overthrown by Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999, returned to Pakistan from Saudi Arabia on Sunday after spending eight years in exile.

Another opposition leader and former prime minister, Benazir Bhutto, filed her own registration for the upcoming elections Monday. Bhutto has been one of Musharraf’s most high-profile opponents since the Pakistani president imposed emergency rule on Nov. 3.

Musharraf declared the state of emergency, which suspended the constitution and set curbs on private media, before the Supreme Court was to rule on whether his October presidential win was valid while he still held the title of military chief.

Bhutto, Sharif and other opposition leaders have threatened to boycott the January elections if Musharraf does not lift the state of emergency and reinstate ousted Supreme Court justices, news agencies reported.

“We are concerned that elections will be rigged, but we don’t want to leave the arena or the field empty,” Bhutto told the AP.

Sharif has maintained that he would not serve as prime minister under Musharraf, while a spokesman for Bhutto said that “the window for negotiations can be reopened,” pending further concessions.

“We don’t want to boycott elections, but if you push somebody to the wall, then what are the options left?” Sharif said at a news conference in Lahore, according to Reuters.

The United States has also put pressure on Musharraf, a key ally in the in the war on terror since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, to hold elections and lift the state of emergency.

“Pakistan won’t be on the right road till it’s back on the road of constitutional, democratic rule,” U.S. State Department spokesman Sean McCormack told the AP.

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