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Pakistan court indicts Musharraf in Bhutto killing

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The judge set Aug. 27 as the next court date to present evidence. But Pakistan court cases can drag on for years, and convictions are often overturned on appeal.

Musharraf became president a few months before the Sept. 11 attacks and U.S.-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan propelled him into the international spotlight as a U.S. ally and foe of Islamic militancy.

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After stepping down as president he retired into safe exile, and many were puzzled by his decision to come back to legal problems and unpopularity.

He vowed to take part in the May elections but was disqualified — for life — and his legal problems snowballed. He has little popular support in Pakistan and even the military was believed not to want him back.

The charges against him put the military and newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a delicate position. Pakistan has undergone three coups since the country’s inception in 1947, one of which aborted Sharif’s previous premiership and brought Musharraf to power.

The military is considered the country’s most powerful institution. So the prospect of Musharraf as a normal defendant who might end up in prison with many of the people arrested by his government likely does not sit well with a military that prides itself on protecting its soldiers and officers.

"The army will view it with some concern but they will stay quiet for the time being and see how things proceed and to what extent not only Musharraf but the institution as a whole gets dragged in," said Rizvi, the analyst.

The case is also part of a strange reversal of fates for Sharif and Musharraf.

Sharif must tread carefully with the man who once put him in handcuffs. Pushing aggressively for Musharraf’s conviction could force a confrontation with the military that Sharif doesn’t need right now.

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