Pakistan’s president Pervez Musharraf has stepped down as army chief. He passed the baton of command to his hand-picked successor General Ashfaq Kayani at a ceremony earlier. Musharraf will be sworn in as civilian leader on Thursday. The president has now fulfilled one of the long-held demands of his political rivals and Western allies, taking off the uniform and becoming a civilian president ahead of elections in January.
Former intelligence chief Kayani who also worked with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is well-regarded by the West. Musharraf’s pressing concern now is the January election – the president’s popularity has been plummeting since a crisis broke out after he tried to fire the country’s top judge.