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Musharraf warned again: Return home and you will be arrested

By the CNN Wire Staff
updated 10:47 PM EST, Wed January 18, 2012
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf takes the oath as a civilian president in Islamabad in November 2007.
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf takes the oath as a civilian president in Islamabad in November 2007.
  • The interior minister says the former president would be arrested immediately
  • Pervez Musharraf seized power through a military coup but fled Pakistan in 2008
  • He is wanted in connection with the assassination of Benazir Bhutto
  • Musharraf says he is willing to risk arrest for his country

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Pakistan reiterated Wednesday that it will arrest former President Pervez Musharraf should he return home after three years of self-imposed exile.

Musharraf, who has announced plans to return at the end of the month, would be taken into custody the moment he sets foot on Pakistani soil, in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, Interior Minister Rehman Malik told lawmakers.

The former military ruler resigned and fled Pakistan in August 2008 and has been living in London and Dubai.

Muhammad Ali Saif, secretary-general of Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League party, called Malik's threat an "empty" one.

"We are ready to face every situation," Saif said, adding that Musharraf plans to return between January 27 and 30.

Musharraf recently announced his intention to run in next year's elections, in a speech to thousands of supporters in the southern city of Karachi via video link from Dubai. He said he accepted the risk of arrest and understood that his life might be endangered as well.

"It's not a bed of roses leading Pakistan, governing Pakistan," he said. "It's a thorny issue. ... It's very, very difficult. We are a country of many diversities, and as you said, you have to risk your life, and you have to burn midnight oil -- you have to work extremely hard to understand and to deliver. You are risking your comfort and your life."

Musharraf asked that he be judged on his entire record, not by the end of his presidency, when he was the target of protests and a coalition of opposition parties moved to impeach him. He left Pakistan shortly thereafter.

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. But a Pakistani court issued a warrant for his arrest.

Musharraf seized power in 1999 in Pakistan's third military coup and became the South Asian nation's fourth military ruler.

He would be returning in the middle of a public squabble between Pakistan's civilian and uniformed leadership that was sparked by a memo that allegedly asked for U.S. help to rein in the all-powerful military.

Malik is not the first senior Pakistani official to issue a warning to Musharraf.

Home Minister Manzoor Wasan said last week that a Karachi jail cell awaited the former military leader.

"No one is above the law," Wasan said.

Journalist Nasir Habib contributed to this story.

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