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Ex-Pakistani president: No fear of arrest upon return

KARACHI, Pakistan -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he doesn't fear arrest despite facing criminal charges as he vowed yesterday to return to his homeland and contest upcoming elections after more than four years in exile.

But legal problems are only one challenge facing Musharraf as the Taliban warned they have an assassination team ready to kill the onetime military strongman if he sets foot in the country Sunday as promised.

Musharraf announced earlier this week that he would return to Pakistan to take part in upcoming elections, despite allegations he was part of a conspiracy to assassinate ex-premier Benazir Bhutto, militant threats to his safety and waning popularity.

The deposed general said he would lead his party in elections scheduled for May 11. "I am going back to save Pakistan," he told reporters yesterday during a news conference in Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates.

Musharraf has failed to follow through on previous promises to return home, but the likelihood of his return this time got a boost on Friday when a Pakistan court granted him pre-emptive bail -- essentially preventing his immediate arrest -- in three cases in which he's implicated, including Bhutto's death.

Musharraf took power in a 1999 coup. He ran the country for nearly a decade until he was forced to step down in 2008 after growing discontent with his rule.

His return comes as Pakistan faces a nationwide vote marking the first time an elected government has fulfilled its term and handed over power to another elected government. Pakistan is struggling with rolling blackouts, rising inflation and widespread security problems.

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