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Musharraf disqualified from running in Pakistan election

Court rejects bid; former leader likely to appeal

ISLAMABAD — A Pakistani court Tuesday disqualified the country’s one-time military leader and president, Pervez Musharraf, from taking part in coming national elections, dashing his hopes of rejoining Pakistani politics.

General elections are scheduled for May 11, and Musharraf had planned to run for Parliament in four election districts across the country. His nomination papers from three of the districts were rejected in an initial review by the national election commission, as officials concluded he had subverted the constitution when he took power in a coup in 1999 and was therefore ineligible to run.

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However, he was allowed to run in Chitral, a picturesque, mountainous northern district, and his opponents had appealed that decision. On Tuesday, a high court tribunal disqualified Musharraf from running in Chitral, citing various technicalities.

Ahmad Raza Khan Qasuri, a lawyer for Musharraf and a senior official of his party, the All Pakistan Muslim League, expressed disappointment over the disqualification. He said Musharraf planned to appeal to the Supreme Court.

“Our spirits are very high,’’ Qasuri said. ‘‘I am with him, and the party leadership has decided that we are going to fight a legal battle.’’ He acknowledged, however, that Musharraf’s chances of winning on appeal were slim.

Last month, Musharraf ended a four-year self-imposed exile and returned to Pakistan. His party lacks any substantial presence in the country’s treacherous and volatile political landscape. Only a small crowd greeted Musharraf after he landed in Karachi, and Musharraf has struggled to find electable party candidates.

Musharraf announced his party’s election manifesto at a lackluster news conference Monday in Islamabad, where he maintains a lavish and highly fortified farmhouse.

His characteristic swagger was missing as he tried to appear defiant despite a litany of court cases and security threats by militants.

“Whenever I see danger, I jump into it, and then I realize it is not a danger,’’ he said.

Musharraf’s ability to campaign has been hobbled because of security threats from Islamist militants and Baluch separatists, whom he tried to quell with military force during his time in office. The Interior Ministry has issued warnings of a possible suicide attack, forcing him to limit his movements.

Supporters of Musharraf accused the high courts of a political vendetta, and Qasuri acknowledged that he saw little chance of winning against a court led by Musharraf’s nemesis, Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

‘‘General Musharraf had submitted himself to the majesty of law,’’ Qasuri said. ‘‘Everyone calls him a dictator, but the courts are showing their bias.’’

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