Pakistan court bans former ruler Pervez Musharraf from office for life

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AP) - A Pakistani court on Tuesday banned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from running for public office for the rest of his life, the latest blow since he returned from exile last month to make a political comeback.

One of Mr Musharraf's lawyers, Mr Saad Shibli, said he would go to the Supreme Court to challenge the ruling, claiming the former leader should not be singled out for punishment for his actions while in power since others were involved.

"About 500 officials at different levels and institutions were part of Musharraf's actions, and if those actions come under scrutiny, all those people should be involved in this matter," Mr Shibli said.

Judges previously barred Mr Musharraf from running in the parliamentary election scheduled for May 11. The Peshawar High Court handed down the lifetime ban on Tuesday after hearing an appeal by Mr Musharraf's lawyer to allow him to run in the upcoming election.

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after four years in self-imposed exile, but his fortunes have gone from bad to worse since he arrived. He is currently under house arrest in connection with a pair of court cases against him.

One involves his decision to fire senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while in power. The other relates to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Government prosecutors have accused Mr Musharraf of being involved, allegations he has denied.

Mr Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief and ruled for nearly a decade. He stepped down in 2008 because of growing discontent with his rule. He returned to Pakistan despite Taleban death threats, but was met by only a few thousand people when his plane landed in the southern port city of Karachi. Analysts said the response showed how little public support he enjoyed in the country.

The run-up to next month's parliamentary election has been marred by violence, much of it carried out by the Pakistani Taleban. On Tuesday, gunmen killed a politician running for a provincial assembly seat in south-western Baluchistan province, said local government official Saeed Ahmad.

Mr Abdul Fatah Magsi was gunned down in Jhal Magsi, about 350km south-east of Quetta, the provincial capital, said Mr Ahmad. The candidate's supporters fired back and killed two of the gunmen. The attack appeared to be the result of a political rivalry, Mr Ahmad said.

The election in the constituency has been postponed, which is mandatory whenever a candidate is killed.

Baluchistan is home to both Islamic militants and separatists who have been waging a bloody insurgency against the government for decades.