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Ex-dictator Musharraf approved to run in Pakistan poll

Former Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf waves after appearing at the Sindh High Court in Karachi on March 29, 2013
Former Pakistan's president Pervez Musharraf waves after appearing at the Sindh High Court in Karachi on March 29, 2013. Pakistani poll officials Sunday approved former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to contest the upcoming general election, despite a

Pakistani poll officials Sunday approved former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to run for parliament in the upcoming general election, despite a litany of legal challenges against him.

But former prime minister Raja Pervez Ashraf, who applied to stand in his home town of Gujar Khan, near Islamabad, had his papers rejected, officials told AFP.

Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nine years after seizing power in a bloodless coup in 1999 and returned to Pakistan from self-imposed exile last month vowing to run for the May 11 poll in four constituencies.

He remains a hugely controversial figure nearly five years after he resigned in the face of impeachment proceedings and his All-Pakistan Muslim League party is not thought to be a serious contender for power at the polls.

In the far northern town of Chitral, close to the Afghan border, officials approved Musharraf's candidature on Sunday, an AFP journalist witnessed.

Supporters of Pakistan's ex-president Pervez Musharraf outside the Sindh High Court in Karachi on March 29, 2013
Supporters of former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf shout slogans outside the Sindh High Court building in Karachi on March 29, 2013.

"His papers are in order. He is not convicted so far so we cannot disqualify him," returning officer Jamal Khan said.

But in the retired general's home city of Karachi, officials turned down his nomination on charges of violating the constitution and sacking top judges.

Returning officer Ikramur Rehman upheld objections raised by his rivals that Musharraf had violated the constitution and sacked top judges by imposing emergency rule in 2007.

"This is a biased decision," Afzal Agha -- an official in Musharraf's party -- said, adding that an appeal would be filed.

Pakistani paramilitary soldiers arrive to cordon off the Sindh High Court building in Karachi on March 29, 2013
Pakistani paramilitary soldiers arrive to cordon off the Sindh High Court building in Karachi on March 29, 2013, as former president Pervez Musharraf appears there.

Musharraf's nomination papers were also rejected in the Punjab town of Kasur on Friday and his bid to contest a seat in Islamabad was also turned down late Sunday.

There is no limit to the number of seats a candidate can contest in Pakistan and it is common practice for high-profile politicians to run in more than one at the same time.

Lawyer Sajidullah Khan vowed to challenge Musharraf's candidature in Chitral.

"Musharraf is not eligible and we will lodge an appeal before the election tribunal," he said.

In office, Musharraf was a key US ally in the "war on terror", an alliance that became deeply controversial in Pakistan, and escaped at least three Al-Qaeda assassination attempts.

Since he left power in 2008 his powerbase has shrivelled and last month he suffered the indignity of having a shoe thrown at him in court by an angry lawyer -- a deeply insulting gesture in the Muslim world.

He is facing a barrage of legal cases, including conspiracy to murder.

He has been granted bail over the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a Baluch rebel leader in 2006, and for sacking and arresting judges in November 2007.

On Monday the Supreme Court will hear a petition asking for Musharraf to be put on trial for treason for imposing emergency rule in 2007, a move that ultimately paved the way for his downfall.

Election officials on Sunday also rejected the nomination of Ashraf, who was prime minister at the head of the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) led coalition from June 2012 until parliament dissolved last month for polls.

No details of why Ashraf was rejected were given and a PPP official said the party planned to appeal against the ruling.