- The Washington Times - Sunday, October 7, 2001

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) President Pervez Musharraf, who seized power in a coup, has extended his term as Pakistan's army chief after obtaining approval from top generals and Cabinet members, a government spokesman said yesterday.
Gen. Rashid Quereshi said Gen. Musharraf will continue to hold the powerful position of army chief indefinitely "in the largest interest of the country."
Gen. Musharraf recently named himself president, and it was not clear from yesterday's announcement whether he plans to relinquish that post by next October a deadline to return the nation to democratic rule.
Gen. Musharraf, who came to power in a bloodless military coup by toppling the elected government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in October 1999, was required by Pakistani law to retire from the army yesterday after completing a three-year term as the army chief.
Gen. Musharraf has been praised by Western nations, including the United States, for supporting international efforts to track down the terrorists behind the Sept. 11 attacks.
The United States has lifted sanctions imposed on Pakistan after the military takeover. Britain and other European nations have also promised increased aid.
Gen. Musharraf decided to side with Western nations despite fierce opposition from militant Muslims. By doing so, he risked the stability of his government and triggered protests in some of Pakistan's larger cities.
Besides being president and army chief, Gen. Musharraf also is chairman of the National Security Council, which advises the government on policy.
Pakistan gained independence from British rule in 1947. The military has ruled it for more than half the time since, and successive elected governments were thrown out of power on charges of corruption and misrule.
The 1999 military coup was triggered when Mr. Sharif tried to fire Gen. Musharraf. The army refused Mr. Sharif's orders and overthrew his government.
Gen. Musharraf accused Mr. Sharif of corruption and of undermining the constitution.
Mr. Sharif was convicted of kidnapping, hijacking and abuse of power for ordering the hijacking of a plane carrying Gen. Musharraf. He was freed from prison late last year and sent to exile in Saudi Arabia.

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