Musharraf gets bail in Bhutto killing case; unwilling to leave Pak

Pervez MusharrafIn a spot of relief for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf after a series of legal setbacks, an antiterrorism court in Rawalpindi on Monday granted him bail in the case relating to the killing of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007.

Judge Chaudhry Habib-ur-Rehman on Monday granted bail to Musharraf against two surety bonds of Rs1 million each, or a total of nearly $20,000.

The decision will not, however, set the former general free. He remains under house arrest at his luxury villa outside Islamabad in connection with two other cases: the killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Bugti in 2006 and the firing of senior judges in 2007.

His lawyers plan to apply for his bail in the judges' sacking case on Wednesday.

In the morning, Musharraf's counsel argued that the case against their client was a political one and the responsibility of Benazir's security was the responsibility of the officers on duty, not Musharraf.

 Another arrested suspect in the case, Abdur Rasheed Turabi, was denied bail by the court.

During the arguments, Salman Safdar, a counsel for Musharraf, said there was no solid evidence or witness against his client. He said the former military ruler had not been blamed for the 2007 suicide attack that killed Benazir by the family of any of the victims.

Prosecutor Chaudhry Azhar of the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) opposed Musharraf's bail petition, saying, the former president could flee Pakistan if he was freed from detention.

Ahmed Raza Kasuri, a counsel for Mushararf, told AFP he would not flee. ''He will get free from all cases one by one. He has got bail in Benzair Bhutto murder case today and will get bail from other cases very soon,'' he said.

''He will stay in the country and won't go abroad. He will stay very much here. Rumours that he will fly abroad before Nawaz Sharif takes charge as prime minister are false.''

There are strong rumours that the Pakistan army wants to get Musharraf freed so that he can give up his political ambitions and live peacefully abroad.

However, another Musharraf aide, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said the retired general remained opposed to the idea of leaving Pakistan again. ''I cannot live abroad,'' the aide quoted Musharraf as saying.