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Pakistan

Pakistani court bans Musharraf from public office

A Pakistani court has stripped former leader Pervez Musharraf of his right to hold public office. Musharraf's current house arrest sentence is scheduled to end after upcoming elections.

The Peshawar High Court handed down the decision on Tuesday to ban Musharraf from running for or holding any political office during the remainder of his lifetime. According to one of its judges, the verdict stemmed from other allegations against the former leader.

"The former dictator had ordered senior judges and their families be put under house arrest and twice abrogated the country's constitution," Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan said in court.

Shortly after returning to Pakistan last month, prosecutors worked quickly to charge him on several allegations. Musharraf allegedly fired several judges when he imposed emergency rule in November 2007. He also faces charges of conspiracy to murder the opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 2008 and over the 2006 death of a rebel leader.

In reaction to Tuesday's verdict, a member of his All Pakistan Muslim League (APLM) told the news agency DPA the lifetime ban was unjust and politically motivated.

"Our leader has become a victim of judicial terrorism and judges are giving decisions against him without any evidence," APML member Aasia Ishaq Ishaq said. "We will appeal against the life ban in Supreme Court, though we doubt justice will be done."

Court appearances to extend bail and appeal charges have filled Musharraf's time since returning to his home country from self-imposed exile.

On April 19, Pakistani authorities apprehended him after he fled arrest orders given during a hearing in Islamabad's high court. He has been under house arrest, extended on Tuesday, ever since. Officials had already disqualified Musharraf from running in the upcoming elections prior to his arrest.

An anti-terrorism court investigating his involvement in the Bhutto assassination case set his house arrest until May 14, so that he cannot exercise influence on the upcoming elections.

Musharraf seized power in 1999 in a military coup. During his time in office, he maintained a strong partnership with the US government it its "war on terror," while also supporting measures to combat insurgencies in his own country. In 2008, the threat of impeachment forced him to relinquish power and eventually leave Pakistan.

kms/hc (AP, Reuters, dpa)