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Pakistan says no arrest of ex-PM after return from exile

[JURIST] Former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto [BBC profile] will not be arrested upon her return to Pakistan, Minister for Railways Sheikh Rashid Ahmed said Monday. Bhutto has lived in self-exile in London and Dubai since she left the country in 1999 under a cloud of corruption allegations, and the announcement paves the way for to return to Pakistan to campaign for prime minister later this year. Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] earlier this month signed [JURIST report] a "reconciliation ordinance," granting amnesty to Bhutto on corruption charges so that she could re-enter the country for personal talks between her Pakistani People's Party [party website] and Musharraf, though the Supreme Court of Pakistan said last week that it would hear a challenge to the ordinance [JURIST report]. Musharraf won an overwhelming victory [JURIST report] during presidential elections held earlier this month, but the Supreme Court has barred the Election Commission of Pakistan from officially declaring a winner until it can rule on Musharraf's eligibility as a presidential candidate. The Court will hear legal arguments [JURIST report] later this week in a challenge against Musharraf's candidacy because he ran for another term in office while still head of the country's army. Xinhua has more. APP has local coverage.

Bhutto, who left the country after her government collapsed [PBS backgrounder] in 1999, still retains wide support in her party, the largest in Pakistan [JURIST news archive], but risks losing popularity with the Pakistani public if she reaches any kind of agreement with Musharraf. Also Monday, Pakistani Minister for Information and Broadcasting Muhammad Ali Durrani told reporters that upon her return, Bhutto would be granted full constitutional protection as enjoyed by citizens. APP has additional coverage.

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