DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said Friday he will return to his homeland no later than next March to resume his political ambitions despite facing arrest warrants in connection with the slaying of an ex-prime minister.
The retired general — who took power in a 1999 coup and stepped down in 2008 — is also now burdened by questions over whether his government knew the whereabouts of Osama bin Laden, who was apparently living for years in the compound in the military garrison town of Abbottabad where he was killed on May 2 by U.S. commandos.
Musharraf has repeatedly denied he or Pakistan's domestic spy services knew of bin Laden's location and said the United States would be making a "big mistake" by demanding further probes into Pakistan's internal intelligence operations. He left open the possibility, however, that "rogue elements" in the intelligence ranks could have aided bin Laden.
Musharraf, who has lived in Dubai and London since leaving office, is considering an election bid to reclaim the presidency next year. But he also must face allegations by Pakistani prosecutors that he was part of a conspiracy to assassinate ex-Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in late 2007. Bhutto, too, was living in self-exile in Dubai before returning to Pakistan.
Musharraf denies any wrongdoing in connection with the Bhutto slaying, and said he would return to Pakistan no later than March 23, 2012 — national day in Pakistan — to Lahore. Bhutto's widower, Asif Ali Zardari, succeeded Musharraf as president.
"Security — it is an issue," Musharraf told reporters. "I'm a risk taker ... I'm taking it for the state of Pakistan."
Musharraf condemned Friday's suicide bomb attacks on a paramilitary training center in Pakistan that the Taliban claimed was a revenge strike for the killing of bin Laden. The blasts killed 80 people.
"We are the victims of terrorism. Pakistan is fighting terrorism for itself," he said.