Pakistan ex-president says bail arranged in advance would prevent his arrest

DUBAI (REUTERS) - Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf said on Saturday he has been granted bail in advance to avoid being arrested upon his planned return home on Sunday following nearly four years of self-imposed exile.

Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup, resigned in 2008 when his allies lost a vote and a new government threatened him with impeachment. He left the country a year later.

"This is a pre-arrest bail, or pre-arrival bail, and it has been granted on all cases, there is no question on me getting arrested when I land in Pakistan," he told Reuters in an interview in Dubai.

The former army general faces charges of failing to provide adequate security to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007. He also faces charges in connection with the death of a Baluch separatist leader.

Musharraf said he will spend the first few days upon his return in the port city of Karachi before going to Islamabad to deal with his legal problems.

"My arrest warrants were merely because of non-appearance in the courts, not that there is any case proven against me," he said.

"When I appear in the courts...the reason for my arrest should disappear."

Earlier this month, Musharraf said he planned to take part in upcoming parliamentary elections, and hopes his presence in the country would build up his support base.

"Certainly there is support all over Pakistan in all provinces, but I call it dispersed support. What needs to be done is to consolidate this support," he said.

"Dispersed support is weak support when you consolidate all of that it turns into strong support. But this is not possible without my going there. I have to lead from the front, this can't be done by remote control sitting outside."

It remains unclear whether Musharraf will manage to regain influence in Pakistan, where strong contenders for the election include Nawaz Sharif, the man he ousted in a military coup, and cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan.

Musharraf said he had not received any political or financial support from Saudi Arabia.

"I'm not looking forward to coming on the shoulders of external support. I have to have the support of the people of Pakistan," he said.

On Saturday, Pakistan's Taliban said in a video that they would despatch suicide bombers and snipers to kill the former president and send him to "hell".

Musharraf dismissed these threat and said they will not stop his return.

"They have been trying to 'send me to hell' after 9/11 which means that it's 12 years now, which means they haven't been able to do that," he said.

"I'm not the kind to get scared, I don't care about them."

Musharraf angered the Taliban and other groups by joining the US war on terror following the September 11 attacks and by later launching a major crackdown on militants in Pakistan.

He said he expects the government to provide him with security but so far there had been no response to his request and he was bringing private security with him.

"I'm not scared, I'm emotionally looking forward to going back to Pakistan."

Join ST's Telegram channel and get the latest breaking news delivered to you.