General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s president, will retire as army chief by mid-November irrespective of the outcome of his bid for another five years in office, a senior ruling party official said on Wednesday.

De-linking the president’s future as chief of the powerful military from the outcome of the presidential elections appears to be a concession to Gen Musharraf’s vociferous critics.

On Tuesday, Sharifuddin Pirzada, the president’s lawyer, raised widespread alarm when he said Gen Musharraf’s retirement plan was tied to his re-election.

But Mushahid Hussain, secretary-general of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League – Quaid-e-Azam (PML-Q) – said: “There’s no going back for General Musharraf. Irrespective of whatever happens in his elections, he has decided to retire from the military. There are no two ways about this.”

The clarification comes at a time when Gen Musharraf is at his weakest point after months of protests by opposition and civil activists.

It also could represent a moot point. The Pakistani Supreme Court is expected to issue a decision within days on petitions challenging Gen Musharraf’s right to contest elections before he retires from the military. The presidential election – in which a special electoral college votes – is expected to be held before October 15.

Analysts say retirement before the elections would weaken the general even as he pursues a power sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto, the exiled former prime minister, and could jeopardise his chances for re-election.

Altogether the Supreme Court is considering six ­petitions.

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