Musharraf hands over army command to General Kiyani

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Rawalpindi, Nov 28 (UNI) A day before he takes over as civilian president, Pakistan military ruler Pervez Musharraf today doffed his uniform after presiding over the 500,000 strong army of the Islamic nation for 9 years, thus meeting one of the main demands of his political rivals and western allies.

The change of command ceremony was held in the garrison town of Rawalpindi where Musharraf, wearing ceremonial dress with sash, handed over change of command stick to his handpicked Vice chief of Army staff Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani.

Musharraf looked composed and confident as he handed over the command to Kiyani, whom he described as a soldier of great professional acumen.

Musharraf, who had seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government, is scheduled to take oath as civilian president tomorrow,ahead of January 8 elections.

''I, after remaining in uniform for 46 years, am saying goodbye to this army,'' the President said during his farewell address telecast live by the state-run Pakistan television.

''This army is my life, this army is my passion. I have loved this army. But I will not be in uniform tomorrow,'' he said.

He described the army as his family, which he served for half a century, saying 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''.

The President said he had full faith in Pakistan army, which was capable of facing challenges of any kind and was known for its professionalism worldwide.

He praised the new army chief saying the command was being handed over to a person he knew for the past 20 years.

''He is an excellent soldier and I am confident that the Army will excel under his command,'' he said and hoped that the army would remain loyal to him.

The president, who imposed Emergency in the country on November 3, had been under pressure from the United States as well as other western allies for holding free and fair election, had overwhelmingly won the October 6 presidential polls that the leading opposition parties boycotted.

An 11-member bench of the apex court had ordered to withhold notification of the returned candidate till decision on six identical petitions challenging his re-election.

However, most of the judges of the bench ceased to function after november 3 emergency and a purged Supreme Court rubber-stamped his victory after throwing away all the petitions.

On arrival at the parade avenue, Gen kiyani, who served as chief of the premier inter services intelligence (ISI) before appointment as vice Army chief, 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 offing.

UNI

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