Musharraf gets bail in Bugti case; 'free to leave Pakistan'

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has been granted bail by the country's supreme court in the Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case, and his legal team said he is free to leave the country today itself.

Musharraf denies involvement in the 2006 death of the separatist leader Bugti in Balochistan while he was president. He was granted bail on a surety of Pakistani Rs1 million ($9,400).

He has been under house arrest in his villa on the outskirts of Islamabad and his fate has been the subject of intense speculation since he was detained in April this year after he returned from self-imposed exile to contest the 11 May general election.

"The jail staff present at his house will pack up and leave as soon as they get the orders from the lower court," Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who heads the Musharraf defence team, told newspersons.

The former military ruler faces other charges, including a murder claim over former prime minister Benazir Bhutto's assassination in 2007.

He is also facing trial over the suspension of judges during emergency rule, which he imposed in 2007, and the death of a cleric during a siege at a mosque in the same year.

Bugti, a Baloch nationalist leader who had led an armed campaign for provincial autonomy, was killed in a cave in August 2006 during a military crackdown ordered by Musharraf.

Musharraf has been granted bail in two other cases, but it was not immediately clear if he remained under house arrest, even though his lawyer said he was now at liberty.

In any case he is likely to remain under heavy guard at his villa due to threats to his life from Taliban-linked extremists, say correspondents.

Musharraf was army chief when he took power in a 1999 coup that deposed current premier Nawaz Sharif, and he later became president. He stepped down after Bhutto's Pakistan Peoples Party won an election in 2008, going into self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

He returned to Pakistan in March, but he was disqualified from standing because of pending court cases.