NEW: Pervez Musharraf calls charges against him 'trumped up, politicized'
Former Pakistan president gets bail extension on all three cases
He returned to the country from exile on Sunday
Musharraf says he is willing to risk it all to save the nation
Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf told CNN he never saw a bystander hurl a shoe that at him as he headed into a Karachi court on Friday to seek a bail extension on charges of corruption.
Musharraf’s court appearance was his first since returning to Pakistan to answer charges in three cases, which include allegations that he did not do enough to protect the life of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
“I don’t know who threw what,” Musharraf told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer, adding that he was surrounded by a throng of supporters. “Later on I was told that something was thrown at me.”
Musharraf resigned as president of the south Asian nation five years ago and went into exile in London and Dubai. He returned to Pakistan on Sunday, saying he planned to face the accusations and run for president in the May elections.
’Why should I go back?’
“I know there is no case against me. I know that all the cases are trumped up, politicized cases,” he said.
“So I thought to myself, ‘Why the hell am I staying outside (of Pakistan)? What for? Why shouldn’t I go back to my country and be free to travel around the world?’”
Some Pakistanis are happy to see the return of the ex-military ruler, hoping his leadership would help to restore order to the country riddled with political division and plagued by extremist violence.
But he also made many enemies in the final years of his presidency.
The scene outside the Karachi courthouse on Friday raised questions about Musharraf’s safety. The Pakistan Taliban have vowed to send a death squad to target the former president, if he returned to the country.
Musharraf said he felt comfortable with the security being provided to him, saying it was more than he anticipated.
Living under threat
Even so, Musharraf said he has been living under threats of death since September 11, 2001, when he supported the American war on terror and targeted the Taliban.
“I’ve been suffering from this threat all along,” he said.
Musharraf was ultimately granted bail extension on the three cases. He was initially granted “protective” bail to ward off potential arrest when he returned the country.
The former general became president after a bloodless coup in 1999.
Musharraf’s popularity began declining in 2007 after he suspended the nation’s Supreme Court chief justice for “misuse of authority.” The move resulted in protests and accusations that he was attempting to influence the court’s ruling on whether he could seek another five-year term.
He faces accusations in the Karachi court that he illegally deposed and detained 62 senior judges during a period of emergency rule he imposed six years ago.
He is also accused of not doing enough to protect the life of Bhutto, the country’s first woman to be elected prime minister. She was assassinated on December 27, 2007, after leaving a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, just two weeks before the general election.
She was the leading opposition candidate facing off against Musharraf.
Authorities want Musharraf to answer for allegedly not doing enough to protect Bhutto’s life despite numerous threats. The former military ruler has denied having anything to do with the killing.
In the third case, he is charged with ordering his troops to kill Nawab Akbar Bugti, a popular tribal leader in the volatile province of Balochistan, in 2006.
Musharraf also faces financial woes.
Last year, Pakistani authorities confiscated his property and froze his bank account. They have accused him of not declaring foreign bank accounts he had in his name.
CNN’s Nasir Habib reported from Islamabad and Chelsea J. Carter reported and wrote from Atlanta. CNN’s Ben Brumfield contributed to this report.