ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Pervez Musharraf will retire as chief of Pakistan’s army Wednesday, his aides announced Monday as Musharraf grappled with a political scene roiled by the return of an exiled former prime minister in time for crucial January elections.
Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by the 1999 coup that put Musharraf in power, registered Monday to run in the election although he didn’t drop his call for a boycott that could undermine the ballot’s legitimacy.
Sharif appealed for support from Pakistanis unhappy with Musharraf’s U.S. alliance, portraying himself as a politician who kept himself at arms length from Washington in contrast to the U.S.-friendly stance of the president and the other key opposition leader, Benazir Bhutto.
Even before Sharif’s return Sunday, Musharraf was under pressure from opposition forces and the U.S. to end the emergency rule he imposed Nov. 3. Musharraf suspended the constitution, saying he needed to stop the Supreme Court from creating political chaos and hampering the effort against militants.
America and its allies want Musharraf to lift his suspension of the constitution to ensure a fair election, which they hope will produce a moderate government willing and capable of standing up to religious extremists with ties to al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Musharraf has eased the crackdown on dissent that saw police detain thousands of opponents and take independent TV news off air, and his aides announced Monday that he was ready to take the long-promised step of quitting his powerful army post and ending direct military rule.
A spokesman 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’s post Wednesday, the aide said.
The following day, “he will take oath of office as president of Pakistan as a civilian,” the spokesman said.