Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is expected return home after more than four years in exile – defying a Taliban death threat – to contest in upcoming general elections.
The 69-year-old ex-dictator also faces criminal charges in three cases, one involving the assassination of ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, but said he does not fear arrest.
Pakistani Taliban released a video threatening to unleash a squad of suicide bombers to assassinate the former leader if he sets foot in the country.
Mr Musharraf said he is prepared to risk any danger to stand for election on May 11, marking the first time an elected government has fulfilled its term and handed over power to another elected government.
“I don’t get scared … by such kind of threat … I am going back to save Pakistan,” said Mr Musharraf, who escaped three al Qaeda assassination attempts as ruler.
Mr Musharraf is expected to arrive in Karachi at around 12.35pm local time (7.35am UK time) on a scheduled flight from Dubai and make his way to the tomb of Mohammad Ali Jinnah, the father and first president of Pakistan.
He has planned to hold a public rally today for his All Pakistan Muslim League party but police said they had withdrawn permission following the Taliban threat. The party’s information secretary said the rally would go ahead “at any cost”.
Mr Musharraf has failed to follow through on previous promises to return home, but the likelihood of his return this time got a boost on Friday when a Pakistan court granted him pre-emptive bail. This prevents his immediate arrest in three cases in which he is implicated, including Mrs Bhutto’s death.
Under the pre-emptive bail, he has 10 days to appear in court, which Mr Musharraf promised he would do.
He said: “I will face these cases with bravery,” adding that “elements in Pakistan and outside” were spreading rumours that he was not returning, but that the granting of the bail would address some of those concerns.
The ex-president seized power in a bloodless coup as army chief of staff in 1999 and left the country after stepping down in August 2008, when Asif Ali Zardari was elected president after the murder of his wife, Mrs Bhutto.