Former Pakistan president Musharraf to return from exile

Despite saying he will prepare for elections, Pervez Musharraf's first challenge may be to avoid arrest on his arrival.

Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf arrives ahead of his speech, broadcasted in Dubai, announcing that he will return to the country and prepare for elections.
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KARACHI // Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf announced yesterday he would return to Pakistan this month and prepare for elections.

Mr Musharraf's first challenge may be to avoid arrest on his arrival.

On Saturday, state prosecutors said they planned to detain the former army chief on charges he failed to provide security for former prime minister Benazir Bhutto ahead of her assassination in 2008.

While much remains unpredictable, commentators have speculated that the army will not allow Mr Musharraf to be arrested, setting up fresh conflict between the military and the unpopular government of President Asif Ali Zardari.

Addressing a rally in Karachi from Dubai via a live video link yesterday, Mr Musharraf told several thousand supporters he would return between January 27 and January 30.

In apparent reference to the charges against him, he said: "I am coming to Pakistan, but there are attempts to scare me off. There are baseless cases against me, but we will face those cases in court."

Mr Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup and stepped down in 2008. He has been living in London and Dubai since then, planning a comeback.

Legal troubles aside, few give him much chance of success.

Mr Musharraf was widely disliked by the time he stepped down, and many of his supporters have since joined other parties.

But he has money, and his army connections still count for something, even if it is unclear whether the current military leadership will support him.

Elections are not scheduled until 2013, but there has been increasing speculation that Mr Zardari may go to the polls this year.

Mr Zardari is under pressure from the military over a memo sent to Washington seeking its help in stopping a supposed coup.

On Saturday, Mr Zardari said he had no intention of stepping down over the memo scandal, as critics have called on him to do.