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Musharraf vows return to contest Pakistan elections

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf said Friday he would return home within weeks to contest elections after nearly five years in self-imposed exile, but did not set a specific date.

"Under the advice of all my party men, we have decided that as soon as the interim government is in place, which we hope will be on March 16, within a week of that I will go back to Pakistan," he announced in Dubai.

Musharraf last year delayed a planned homecoming indefinitely after the government warned that he would be arrested upon arrival and few commentators in Pakistan believe he will return this time.

A caretaker administration is scheduled in mid-March to replace President Asif Ali Zardari's government, which will become the first elected civilian administration in Pakistan to complete a full-term in office.

Pakistan will then hold elections, expected sometime in May.

Musharraf is wanted in Pakistan over the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun and suicide attack after an election rally in Rawalpindi, the headquarters of the army, on December 27, 2007.

But he denied there was any case against him and said he was not afraid.

"People say that there are cases against me and there is danger. I am not afraid of dangers and I leave it to God," Musharraf said.

"We, this party of mine, All Pakistan Muslim League, will participate in the coming elections and we will inshallah (God willing) put up candidates in almost all the constituencies of Pakistan," said Musharraf.

Musharraf has lived in London and Dubai since stepping down in August 2008, but much of his power base in Pakistan has evaporated.

Commentators question whether he has enough loyalists in the military to prevent him from being arrested in Pakistan and whether the army is willing to run the risk of having a former chief of staff thrown into jail.

Musharraf said Pakistan needed a strong, stable government and presented himself as "a third political alternative" to Zardari's Pakistan People's Party and to opposition leader Nawaz Sharif, whom he ousted in a bloodless coup in 1999.

He called for free and fair elections, which he said would only be possible under supervision from the army.

Bhutto's son, who is co-chairman of the Pakistan People's Party and whose father is Zardari, has accused Musharraf of murdering his mother.

Bilawal Bhutto Zardari told CNN in May 2012 that Musharraf sabotaged his mother's security when she returned to her homeland in 2007 after her own exile.

"I hold him responsible for the murder of my mother," he said.

In 2010, a UN report said the murder could have been prevented and accused Musharraf's government of failing to provide Bhutto with adequate protection.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130301/musharraf-vows-return-contest-pakistan-elections