Mush doffs uniform, Kiyani takes charge

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Rawalpindi, Nov 28: Eight years after he dislodged Mr Nawaz Sharif as Prime Minister in a bloodless coup, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf today relinquished the post of Army Chief, thus fulfilling one of the main demands of his political rivals and Western allies.

At a ceremony at the Army headquarters here, the 64-year-old military ruler handed over the baton to his close confidant and Vice-Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kiyani, a day before he is scheduled to be sworn in as the civilian President of the Islamic nation.

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Musharraf, who commanded the army for nine years, looked composed and confident as he handed over the command to Gen Kiyani, whom he termed ''a soldier of great professional acumen.'' Describing the Pakistani Army as his family, Musharraf, in an emotional farewell speech, said: ''I, after remaining in uniform for 46 years, am saying goodbye to this army.''

Born in Delhi before the partition of India, Musharraf, who commanded the 5,00,000-strong Pakistani Army, said: "this army is my life, This army is my passion. I have loved this army. But I will not be in uniform tomorrow.'' Noting that he had served the army for half a century, Musharraf said 'this family' remained loyal to him. "I am sad today but this is life which goes on, people come and every one has to go," he added.

"I am sad that I will not be in command of this beautiful family from tomorrow but am happy that I spent 46 years with honour and respect," he said in a speech, which was telecast live by the state-run Pakistan Television.

Musharraf said he had full faith in the Pakistan army, which is capable of facing challenges of any kind and is known for its professionalism worldwide.

He eulogized his successor, and said he was happy to over the command to a person whom he had known for the past 20 years. He is an excellent soldier and I am confident that the army will excel under his command," Musharraf said and hoped that the army would remain loyal to him.

On arrival at the parade avenue, Gen Kiyani, who served as chief of the premier Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) before appointment as vice chief of the Army, received the President. Gen Kiyani inspected the guard of honour as the military band played the famous farewell tune for Musharraf. The change of command ceremony took place amid strong rumours that emergency might be lifted from the country within the next 48 hours. However, senior government officials denied reports, saying nothing of the sort was in the offing.

UNI

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