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Musharraf solidifies powerful post

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Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf explained to his country Thursday why he won't quit his position as military chief, reneging on a long-standing promise, and securing maximum power to fulfill his transformation of the country to a modern, secular state.

In an uncompromising televised address, Mr. Musharraf said he would continue as army chief of staff, claiming it had been mandated by Parliament.

"I have decided to retain both offices. In my view, any change in internal or external policies can be extremely dangerous for Pakistan," he said.

Some observers say that Musharraf is following the example of Mustafa Kemal Ataturk, the founder of modern Turkey. In the 1920s and 1930s, Mr. Ataturk used sweeping, radical measures to usher Turkey - like Pakistan, an overwhelmingly Muslim country - into the modern era.

But unlike Ataturk, Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is struggling to create fundamental changes in Pakistani society while equalizing the pressures imposed by the war on terror. Washington counts Musharraf as a key antiterror ally - and expects him to toe the line. At home, Musharraf's policies have drawn ire from the religious right, who dub him a traitor for wanting to change the Islamic Republic of Pakistan into a secular state. Liberal critics, meanwhile, criticize his authoritarian powers.

"[Musharraf] wants to change Pakistani society by liberal, moderate and progressive policies," says Sheikh Rashid, a Musharraf spokesman. "We are faced with difficult circumstances and that is why Musharraf does not want to take off his military uniform."

After getting elected - with no real competition - as president through a referendum in 2002, Musharraf introduced controversial constitutional amendments that secured his rights to sack the prime minister and cabinet.


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