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Musharraf announces he will return to Pakistan late this month

By Nasir Habib, CNN
updated 4:46 PM EST, Sun January 8, 2012
Former Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in November in New York City.
Former Pakistani president Gen. Pervez Musharraf speaks at the Council on Foreign Relations in November in New York City.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Musharraf declines to give a specific return date because of security concerns
  • NEW: "This is a do-or-die moment for me and my party," he tells CNN
  • Musharraf plans to return to his home country sometime between January 27 and 30
  • Pakistani official: The former president will be promptly arrested upon his return

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf pledged in a speech Sunday to return to his country later this month, despite word from authorities that he will be arrested when he does so.

"I am coming, Pakistan," Musharraf told thousands of supporters via video link in the southern city of Karachi. "Attempts have been made to scare me, but I am not afraid of anything."

He pledged to return between January 27 and 30.

When he does, Pakistani officials said, Musharraf will be arrested in connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Chaudhry Zulfiqar Ali, a special public prosecutor in the assassination case, said a Rawalpindi court has already issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf.

"They are bound to execute the order unless a higher court sets aside the orders," Ali said, adding that Musharraf is accused of conspiring in the assassination.

Musharraf's attorney, Chaudry Faisal, said the threat of arrest is politically motivated and has no legal bearing. The warrant is being challenged in court, the attorney said.

He described the claim that Musharraf could be arrested at any time upon return as "absurd."

The former president said Sunday that he will return even at the risk of his life. Speaking to CNN after addressing the crowd in Karachi, Musharraf said he had declined to provide a specific date because of security concerns. He spoke about the possibility of arrest, but said he expects he will be fine, so long as "the judiciary plays its just role, and there are no interruptions."

"There is a vacuum in Pakistan of trustworthy leaders, which is being filled by others. To exploit this vacuum, I have to be back now," Musharraf said.

He described his support as scattered, and said he needs to build it again from the ground up.

"This is a do-or-die moment for me and my party. I need to muster all the support I can," he said.

Musharraf, who resigned in 2008, is expected to fly into Pakistan from the United Arab Emirates later this month, accompanied by up to 500 supporters, said Jawed Siddiqi, spokesman for the former president's All Pakistan Muslim League party.

"President Musharraf told me that although the possibility of arrest is there -- there is no way of knowing what will happen, and how dangerous the situation is, until one jumps into the situation head first," he said.

Elections are set to take place in Pakistan next year; Musharraf intends to run.

On Sunday, he told Pakistanis that other politicians have failed leading the country, but "I succeeded 100%."

"When I took charge of the country, it was surrounded in huge problems," he said. "... Today, we have to decide whether we need change or we need the same faces."

Terrorism in Pakistan, he said, "is at its peak. We are alone in the world."

He said he restored Pakistan's economic development, increased its global standing and strengthened the armed forces.

Musharraf resigned in 2008 as the country's ruling coalition began taking steps to impeach him. He was succeeded by Asif Zardari, Bhutto's widower.

In 2010, the United Nations released a report that said Musharraf's government had failed to protect Bhutto before her 2007 assassination.

Musharraf has rejected such accusations, saying that Bhutto had police protection and took unnecessary risks.

Bhutto's assassination turned public opinion strongly against Musharraf in 2008 and led to his resignation and self-exile in London.

In 2010, Musharraf said the timing of his return to Pakistan would depend on the environment there.

"My going back is dependent, certainly, on an environment to be created in Pakistan and also, I would say, with certainty, that whenever the signs of the next election comes up, I will be there in Pakistan," he said.

CNN's Aliza Kassim, Shaan Khan and journalist Wajahat S. Khan contributed to this report.

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