Musharraf granted bail in Bhutto assassination case
ISLAMABAD - After weeks of legal setbacks, Pakistan's former military ruler, Pervez Musharraf, won a small victory Monday amid media speculation that the military is seeking to free the former army chief from a tangle of court cases.
An anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi, Pakistan, granted Musharraf bail on charges relating to the death of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007 while Musharraf was in power.
His lawyer, Salman Safdar, said bail, which was set close to $20,000, represented Musharraf's "first legal relief" since his dramatic return from exile in March and subsequent arrest.
The decision will not, however, see the former military leader go free. He remains under house arrest at his luxury villa outside Islamabad in connection with two other cases: the killing of a Baloch nationalist leader in 2006 and the firing of senior judges in 2007.
But other events suggested that moves might be afoot to ease Musharraf's legal woes, or possibly allow him to return to exile.
Last week, Aslam Ghumman, a lawyer who was the main complainant against Musharraf in the case involving the judges, withdrew from the proceedings.
Then on Saturday, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, the Pakistani army chief, met with Nawaz Sharif, the opposition leader whose party won the May 11 elections. Pakistani news media reported that, among other matters, the two men discussed Musharraf's fate.
A Musharraf aide, speaking on condition of anonymity, said the retired general remained opposed to the idea of leaving Pakistan again. "I cannot live abroad," the aide quoted Musharraf as saying.
Elsewhere, militants opened fire Monday on a polio vaccination team in Pakistan's northwestern tribal belt, killing a paramilitary soldier protecting the workers. The killing underscored the threat to one of the region's most urgent health campaigns.
Gunmen hiding in a field fired at the health workers as they traveled through the Bajaur tribal district. The gunmen then fled.
"It was hit-and-run," said a senior tribal official in the district, who spoke on condition of anonymity.
He said eight tribesmen were later detained under the Frontier Crimes Regulations, a colonial-era body of laws that gives the government sweeping powers in the tribal belt.
No group claimed responsibility for the shooting, but suspicion fell on the Pakistani Taliban, who have declared polio vaccinations to be un-Islamic and have carried out other attacks on polio workers.
A senior tribal official in Peshawar said the polio campaign would continue despite the attacks.