General Pervez Musharraf, the Pakistani president, on Friday appointed a new spy chief and made a number of other key military appointments in a move apparently aimed at retaining his influence even after he steps down as head of the army.

This year’s round of promotions has been keenly anticipated as Gen Musharraf is going through his weakest phase since coming to power eight years ago.

A nine-member panel of Supreme Court judges is reviewing six petitions seeking the disqualification of the US-backed general from contesting the presidential election on grounds including his dual position as head of the army and ruler of Pakistan, and the legality of being elected in uniform.

This week a ruling party official said Gen Musharraf would retire as army chief by mid-November irrespective of whether he was re-elected.

“General Musharraf is obviously trying to consolidate his position within the military,” said Abida Hussain, a leader of the opposition Pakistan People’s party.

Maj Gen Nadeem Taj was promoted to lieutenant general and appointed head of the Inter Services Intelligence agency. Gen Taj served as Gen Musharraf’s military secretary at the time of the coup that brought him to power in October 1999.

The moves strengthened speculation that Lt Gen Pervez Ashfaq Kiyani, former head of the ISI, might be appointed chairman of the joint chiefs of staff committee of the armed forces or chief of army staff.

Lt Gen Kiyani is reported to have negotiated a power-sharing deal with Benazir Bhutto, opposition party leader.

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