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After 5 years away, ex-President Musharraf announces return to Pakistan

By CNN Staff
updated 7:22 PM EDT, Sat March 16, 2013
Activists of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) watch former president Musharraf give a press conference March 1, 2013.
Activists of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) watch former president Musharraf give a press conference March 1, 2013.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pervez Musharraf says he'll fly to Karachi on March 24 to lead his party in elections
  • He's been in self-imposed exile since resigning as president in 2008
  • Pakistani authorities confiscated his property; he's accused of not protecting Benazir Bhutto

(CNN) -- Five years after he resigned as Pakistan's president and left the South Asian nation, Pervez Musharraf will return to the country intent on leading his party in upcoming elections, he announced Saturday.

Musharraf plans to fly on a commercial airline into Karachi on March 24, then attend a rally attended by 50,000 people including more than 200 Pakistani expatriates from the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom and the United Arab Emirates, he said in a statement.

He plans to lead his political party into Pakistan's general elections, which are slated for May.

Whether the rest of Pakistan welcomes him back, including the authorities now heading the country, remains to be seen.

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In 1999, the then chief of Pakistan's army became its president in a bloodless military coup. He remained in power until resigning in 2008 -- a period that included the U.S.-led invasion of neighborhood Afghanistan, starting a sweeping international war on terror -- then went into self-imposed exile in London and Dubai.

A few months before he left office, Benazir Bhutto -- who served two stints, in the late 1980s and 1990s, as Pakistan's first elected female prime minister -- was killed in a gun-suicide bomb attack as she was wrapping up a campaign rally in Rawalpindi.

This attack, coming two months after she survived an assassination attempt in Karachi, fueled criticism that Musharraf had not done enough to protect Bhutto's life despite numerous threats. The former military ruler has denied having anything to do with Bhutto's killing.

He's been targeted by Pakistan authorities, who in August 2012 confiscated his property and froze his bank account. A politician and prosecutor, according to media reports, have said Musharraf will be arrested as soon as he steps foot in Pakistan.

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