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Mon 18 Feb 2008 12:06 PM

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Musharraf will be 'father figure' to prime minister

Pakistan's president says he will act as 'checks and balances' for elected leader.

Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf said he would act as a "father figure" to the country's new prime minister, in an interview with Imran Khan's ex-wife published of the eve of elections.

He also told Jemima Khan, who split from the cricket hero-turned-opposition politician in 2004, that the Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) party which supports him would "certainly have the majority" after Monday's vote.

But he questioned whether it could form a government.

"My role as a president is simply the checks and balances, the seatbelts... a sort of father figure to the prime minister, but I won't have to see him for weeks," Musharraf said, in comments reported by Britain's Independent on Sunday newspaper.

Pakistan's parliamentary polls will take place against a backdrop of tension and fear after being postponed following the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December.

While predicting a majority for PML-Q, allied with the Mutahida Qaumi Movement, Musharraf added: "Whether they'll be able to form a government is a question mark."

He also described sacked chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry as "the scum of the earth - a third-rate man - a corrupt man" in remarks quoted by the paper.

And he agreed that Bhutto and widower Asif Ali Zardari, now leader of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP), should not have been granted immunity from corruption charges last year, the newspaper said.

In separate BBC interviews broadcast in Britain on Sunday, Imran Khan - whose party is boycotting the elections - and Nawaz Sharif, the former premier who leads the PML-N party, both predicted the votes will be fixed.

Imran Khan said he suspected there would be "massive rigging" of the election and predicted protests on the streets if the opposition did not win.

"All Musharraf wants is to cling to power any which way," he told the broadcaster.

"He's going to try and win - every, any way he's going to use and that's where the problems are going to start... if his (PML-Q) party wins, I can tell you right now we have far greater problems ahead than we are facing right now."

Sharif, meanwhile, added that Musharraf was "bent upon rigging the elections".

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