ISLAMABAD, Pakistan – A Pakistani court issued an arrest warrant for ousted military leader Pervez Musharraf on Saturday over allegations he played a role in the 2007 assassination of an ex-prime minister and rival. It was a major setback for the onetime U.S. ally, who was plotting a political comeback from outside the country.
Musharraf, who has not been charged, described accusations that he had a hand in the attack on ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto as a smear campaign by a government led by her aggrieved husband.
The stunning allegation that Musharraf – a self-declared opponent of Islamic militancy – was linked to extremists accused in the attack was likely to keep him out of Pakistan, at least in the short term.
His possible arrest abroad did not appear imminent, but Pakistan’s information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, said the government will contact Interpol about seeking Musharraf’s detention if the court requests it.
Musharraf’s spokesman said the former leader was in Dubai, with no plans to go to Pakistan.
Musharraf left Pakistan for Britain in 2008 after being forced out of the presidency he secured in a 1999 military coup.
Bhutto was killed Dec. 27, 2007, in a gun and suicide bomb attack after returning to Pakistan to campaign in elections Musharraf reluctantly allowed. Musharraf blamed the Pakistani Taliban for the attack, but prosecutors now say he was part of the plot.
“A joint investigation team, in its report to the court, has found Musharraf guilty of being involved in the conspiracy” to kill Bhutto, said Zulfikar Ali Chaudhry, the lead prosecutor. He said evidence that Musharraf was “completely involved” has come from the Pakistani Taliban.