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Pakistan officials bar ex-president Musharraf from election race

Pakistan's former President and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party Pervez Musharraf speaks as he unveils his part
Pakistan's former President and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party Pervez Musharraf speaks as he unveils his part

By Mehreen Zahra-Malik

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan's election authorities barred former President Pervez Musharraf from competing in next month's general elections on Tuesday, derailing his efforts to regain influence by winning a seat in parliament.

The former army chief returned last month after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest a May 11 general election despite the possibility of arrest on various charges and death threats from the Pakistani Taliban.

The polls are seen as a key moment in Pakistan's attempts to shake off a legacy of decades of military rule, because they represent the first time a democratically elected civilian government has completed a term in office.

Pakistani returning officers have barred Musharraf from the polls because of court cases pending against him, according to a source at Pakistan's election commission. There is no way for Musharraf to appeal the decision, the official said.

The source, who requested anonymity because the commission does not comment on individual cases, said the decision was also based on a clause in the constitution which requires candidates to be of "good character" and the fact that he had not declared all of his assets.

"Musharraf has been disqualified," the election commission official said.

Neither Musharraf nor his spokesman were immediately available for comment.

Musharraf faces charges of failing to provide adequate security to former prime minister Benazir Bhutto before her assassination in 2007.

He also faces accusations in connection with the death of a separatist leader in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. He denies any wrongdoing.

Musharraf had hoped to compete for a seat in parliament at the polls. Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999, is seen as the frontrunner to win the powerful premiership.

Musharraf, a former commando, has been far removed from Pakistan's troubles during his exile in London and Dubai, where he lived in an upmarket area of the Gulf Arab emirate.

His decision to try to run in the elections baffled many Pakistanis, who wondered why he would risk returning home when there was little evidence he could command any significant groundswell of popular support.

Pakistan's military has ruled the nation for more than half of its 66-year history, through coups or from behind the scenes. It sets foreign and security policy even when civilian administrations are in power.

But current commanders have meddled far less in politics than during Musharraf's era, preferring instead to let civilian governments take the heat for the country's problems.

(Reporting By Mehreen Zahra-Malik; editing by Mike Collett-White)

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