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Musharraf to end exile, return to Pakistan

Dubai/Islamabad, March 1 (PTI): Former President Pervez Musharraf, who has been living in exile for nearly four years, today said he would return to Pakistan within a week of the formation of a caretaker government later this month.

“As soon as the interim government is in place, which we believe will be on March 16, within a week of that I will go back to Pakistan,” Musharraf told a news conference in Dubai.

He said he planned to fly into either Karachi or Rawalpindi to end his exile.

The Pakistan People’s Party-led government is set to complete its five-year term on March 16 and the ruling party and main Opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party have begun negotiations on forming a caretaker government to supervise the next elections to be held by the middle of May.

Musharraf, 69, who stepped down as President in 2008 after he was threatened with impeachment, brushed aside questions on whether he would be arrested after his return in connection with several cases that are pending against him including one related to the assassination of former Premier Benazir Bhutto.

“I don’t see any reason why I should be arrested,” he said in response to repeated questions on whether he would be detained on his homecoming.

Musharraf said he would react only “in accordance with what happens at the airport”.

“There is no case against me in court. If I am to be punished for giving economic progress to Pakistan and for reducing unemployment... I am ready to face the courts,” he said.

“People say it’s too late, there are cases against me, my life is in danger (but) it’s now or never,” he added.

In the past, PPP leaders have said that Musharraf would be arrested as soon as he lands as he is wanted by authorities in connection with Bhutto’s assassination.

Musharraf has set several dates for his return to Pakistan in the past but had postponed his homecoming after arrest threats. An anti-terrorism court has declared Musharraf a “proclaimed offender” or fugitive for refusing to cooperate with investigators probing Bhutto’s death in a suicide attack in Rawalpindi in December 2007. Prosecutors say Musharraf failed to provide adequate security to Bhutto.

The former President has been shuttling between London and Dubai after he left Pakistan in early 2009.

Musharraf said his All- Pakistan Muslim League party will “fully participate” in the next elections and field candidates in almost all constituencies across the country.

Musharraf said he himself planned to contest the polls from one seat in all four provinces and the capital territory of Islamabad. The former army chief contended that the polls will be free and fair only if they are supervised by the military.

“The election must be held in a fair and transparent manner, which is possible only if it is done under the army’s supervision,” he said. Musharraf said his party would act as a “third alternative” to the PPP and PML-N. He said he did not foresee any single party forming the next government.

 
 
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