PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) — Pakistani judges on Tuesday disqualified Pervez Musharraf from running in the upcoming parliamentary election, a blow to the former military ruler who recently returned from self-imposed exile to make a political comeback, lawyers said.
Over a week ago, a judge in the remote northern district of Chitral gave Musharraf approval to run in the May 11 election, even though he was disqualified in three other districts for suspending the constitution and sacking senior judges while in power.
Pakistan’s political system allows a candidate to run for multiple seats simultaneously.
Lawyers challenged the Chitral decision, and on Tuesday a three-member appellate tribunal at the high court in the main northwest city of Peshawar disqualified Musharraf from running in the district, said two of the lawyers who raised objections, Taufiq Asif and Rao Abdur Rahim.
Asif challenged Musharraf’s candidacy because of his actions while in power, while Rahim said there were procedural flaws with the former military ruler’s nomination.
Musharraf’s lawyer, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, said he plans to appeal the ruling in the Supreme Court.
The tribunal’s decision is one of the biggest blows in what has been a bumpy return for Musharraf after over four years in self-imposed exile.
Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999 and ruled for nearly a decade before he was forced to step down and left the country in 2008 because of growing discontent with his rule. He returned to Pakistan last month to stage a political comeback, but he has been met with low levels of public support, a variety of legal challenges and Taliban death threats.
The former military strongman was only met with a couple thousand people at the airport in the southern city of Karachi when his plane from Dubai landed on March 24, a sign of how little support analysts say he enjoys in the country. A few days later, an angry lawyer threw a shoe at Musharraf as he walked through a court building in Karachi.
Musharraf faces a variety of legal charges, including some related to the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. He has not been arrested because he arranged pre-arrest bail before he arrived, a feature of Pakistan’s legal system.
The Supreme Court is also hearing petitions from lawyers alleging Musharraf committed treason while in office, an offense that can be punished by death or life in prison.
Amid all of this, the Pakistani Taliban have threatened to assassinate Musharraf. The militants released a video the day before Musharraf returned to Pakistan saying they had set up a special death squad to target him.
There is also concern that attacks by the Taliban and other militants could hamper the upcoming election.
A suicide bomber targeting members of an anti-Taliban political party in northwestern Pakistan killed 12 people and wounded 50, police and hospital officials said.
The bomb exploded as key members of the Awami National Party were arriving for a meeting in the city of Peshawar, said police officer Zahir Shah. The party members included Ghulam Ahmad Bilour and his nephew Haroon Bilour, whose father was one of the most senior ANP leaders and was killed in a suicide attack in December
Ghulam Ahmad Bilour was slightly wounded in his leg, said Jamil Shah, a spokesman for Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar. Among the 12 dead were policemen and civilians, including a child, Shah said.
The Pakistani Taliban have specifically threatened to target members of the ANP and two other secular parties, the Pakistan People’s Party and the Muttahida Quami Movement, in the run-up to parliamentary elections on May 11.
Also Tuesday, a bombing in the country’s southwest hit a convoy of vehicles carrying an election candidate from a different party, killing four people and wounding six others, said Pakistani officials.
Sardar Sanaullah Zehri’s convoy was passing over a bridge in Baluchistan province’s Khuzdar district when a bomb was detonated by remote control, said local government official Abdul Sattar Mengal.
Zehri, the Baluchistan president of the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, was unharmed, but his brother, son and nephew were killed, along with a driver, said Megal.
Zehri’s vehicle passed over the bridge safely because it had jammers that prevented the bomb from detonating, said another government official, Mohammad Akbar. But several vehicles traveling in the convoy were hit.
No one has claimed responsibility for the attack.
Baluchistan is home to both Islamic militants and nationalists who have been waging an insurgency against the government for decades, seeking greater autonomy and a larger share of the province’s natural resources.
In Pakistan’s northwestern tribal region, an army vehicle hit a roadside bomb Tuesday, killing four soldiers and wounding four others, said intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the media. The attack took place near Miran Shah, one of the main towns in the North Waziristan tribal area, the principal sanctuary for Taliban militants in the country.
Associated Press writer Abdul Sattar in Quetta, Pakistan, Rasool Dawar in Peshawar, Pakistan, and Zarar Khan and Munir Ahmed in Islamabad contributed to this report.