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Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf escapes bombing

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf escaped a bombing early Thursday morning as he was being transferred by convoy from a hospital to his farmhouse in the Islamabad suburbs, police officials said.

The bomb went off at about 2 a.m. local time along the route that the convoy was due to travel -- about 20 minutes before Musharraf reached the area, officials said. The convoy was rerouted following the blast, in which no one was injured, according to police.

[Updated, 7:25 a.m. PDT April 4: A spokeswoman for Musharraf later offered a different account, telling reporters that the bomb went off after the former president had reached his home. Police officials said they were still investigating the incident.]

The nine-pound explosive was planted in a pipeline along the road, said Liaqat Niazi, a senior police official in Islamabad, who said that the former strongman was likely the target.

Musharraf was indicted three days ago by a special court on charges of treason stemming from some of his actions as president in late 2007, when he imposed a state of emergency and fired high-ranking judges in a bid to hold on to power.

Musharraf has denied the charges and sought permission to travel overseas to seek medical care for hypertension and other ailments, raising questions about whether he will face trial.

The Pakistani government denied his request to leave the country, possibly setting up a showdown between Pakistan's civilian-led government and its powerful army. Senior army leaders are said to oppose putting Musharraf on trial, which would be an unprecedented move in a country where a top military official has never faced abuse-of-power charges.

Asia Ishaq, a spokeswoman for Musharraf’s political party, said that “extremist forces” wanted to kill the former leader, adding that he has received death threats since returning from exile in 2013. Explosives have been recovered from around his farmhouse several times in recent months.

Ishaq called the government’s rejection of Musharraf’s request to leave Pakistan a political vendetta by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was ousted by Musharraf in a coup in 1999 and forced into exile. Sharif regained power last year and has pressed the treason case against Musharraf with a fervor that has surprised many Pakistan observers, given the civilian government’s traditional subservience to the army.

Musharraf’s lawyers will petition Pakistan’s higher courts for permission for him to travel abroad, Ishaq said.

“If something happens to Musharraf, this government would be responsible for that,” she said.

Sahi is a special correspondent. Times staff writer Shashank Bengali in Kabul, Afghanistan contributed to this report.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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