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'Pakistan's Musharraf to form political party'

world Updated: Apr 28, 2010 16:54 IST
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Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is planning to launch a political party in a comeback bid two years after he was unseated in elections, officials said Wednesday.

Musharraf, who has been abroad since ending his nine-year stint in power, could face a criminal trial if he returns home and he is wanted for questioning by the government over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.

An aide and election official confirmed to AFP that the retired general had applied to register a new political party with the electoral authorities in the Pakistani capital Islamabad.

Mohammad Ali Saif, a former cabinet minister and now a legal adviser to Musharraf, said election authorities would hear the application on May 10.

"I have formally applied for a new political party called All Pakistan Muslim League. Pervez Musharraf is the head of this party and we will formally announce it after getting registered," he told AFP.

Saif, an unofficial spokesman for Musharraf, is active in organising the new political party and said the former president had told him in London that he intended to return to Pakistan and fight a criminal case.

Pakistan police registered a case against Musharraf last August, a precursor to potentially putting the ex-president on trial for detaining judges in 2007 as he attempted to cling onto power.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and sacked about 60 judges in November 2007 when the supreme court appeared poised to declare him ineligible to contest a presidential election while in military uniform.

"Musharraf will certainly come. He will face all the charges. These are politically motivated cases with no evidence," said Saif.

"I am in Punjab to establish our party structure here. We will establish it across Pakistan. I can see a bright future for Musharraf in Pakistan."

Sabir Hussain Gilani, a spokesman for the election commission of Pakistan, confirmed that the body had received the application.

"They want to register their party as All Pakistan Muslim League but there are two more applications wanting the same name," he said.

The chief election commissioner has issued notices to all the applicants and will decide on their application next month, the spokesman added.

Musharraf seized power from prime minister Nawaz Sharif, now Pakistan's opposition leader, in a bloodless military coup in 1999.

He was replaced as president in 2008 by Asif Ali Zardari, Bhutto's widower, after Zardari's party won elections.

Musharraf used a speech in London in February to hint at a return to politics but said it would be up to voters to decide. He did not say whether he had decided to return to Pakistan to face trial.

A damning UN report into the December 2007 killing of Bhutto -- while Musharraf was in power -- said her assassination could have been prevented and accused the authorities of deliberately failing to investigate the case properly.

A spokesman for the presidency has said authorities would try to question Musharraf over the findings.