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Central & South Asia
Musharraf faces arrest in Pakistan
Official says former president will be arrested in connection with assassination of Benazir Bhutto if he returns home.
Last Modified: 07 Jan 2012 21:02
Prosecutors allege Musharraf was part of a conspiracy to kill Bhutto, but Musharraf has denied the charge  [EPA]

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will be arrested in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto if he returns to the country, a government prosecutor has said.

There is no need for any "fresh arrest warrants" for him as a court has already issued orders for his arrest, prosecutor Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali told reporters on Saturday.

Hours earlier, Musharraf told a Pakistani news channel that he would come back later this month to contest the next parliamentary elections.

Musharraf has been living in London and Dubai since 2008 when the government, led by Bhutto's party, forced him to resign.

Bhutto was killed in 2007 in a gun and suicide bomb attack near the capital, Islamabad, after returning home to contest elections. Musharraf, at the time, had blamed the Pakistani Taliban for her murder, but the prosecution alleges he was part of the plot.

In November, a Pakistani court formally charged seven, including two senior police officers and five suspected Taliban fighters, for their alleged role in Bhutto's killing. Musharraf was not among those charged at the time.

Musharraf now heads his own faction of the All Pakistan Muslim League, a small political party that does not have any major base in the country. Some of his former supporters have quit his party.

His spokesman, Fawad Chaudhry, asserted that the arrest warrant for Musharraf had no legal value.

"We have challenged this arrest warrant in a court," he said, adding that Musharraf would announce a final date for returning home this week, but "he will come back soon to lead the nation".

Ongoing power struggle

Meanwhile, Pakistan's President Asif Ali Zardari has said leaving office is not an option and that no one has asked him to resign, responding to speculation that the powerful military wanted his departure.

"No one has asked for it yet. If someone does, I'll tell you," Zardari, who appeared in good spirits after medical treatment in Dubai last month, said in a pre-recorded interview with one of the country's most popular television anchors.

Zardari is facing his biggest political crisis since he took office in 2008 over an unsigned memo to the Pentagon that sought US help in reining in Pakistan's generals, who have ruled the nation for more than half of its history.

Zardari's deeply unpopular government is opposing an investigation ordered  by the Supreme Court into the memo, contending that only a parliamentary committee on national security is entitled to investigate.

Although his position is largely ceremonial, Zardari wields considerable influence as leader of the ruling party and any forced departure would be a humiliation for the civilian leadership and could throw the country into turmoil.

When asked in the interview if "escape" was an option for him, Zardari replied: "Why should it be?"

Source:
Agencies
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