Former Pakistani dictator Musharraf granted bail

Former Pakistani dictator Musharraf granted bail
Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf

ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani court on Wednesday granted bail to former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in a ruling which takes him a step closer to being released from house arrest.

Musharraf's fate has been subject to speculation since he became the first former army chief to be arrested this year, breaking an unwritten rule that the top ranks of the military are untouchable, even after they have retired.

"The bail application is accepted, pending payment of two bail bonds of 1 million rupees ($9,400) each," the Supreme Court ruled.

Musharraf faces an array of court cases which prevent him from leaving the country but many observers believe a face-saving reason for his departure, possibly on grounds of ill health, will be found.

The current army chief has also suggested the military is unhappy with how authorities have treated Musharraf.

Musharraf was army chief when he took power in a 1999 coup. He later became president as well. He stepped down after the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto won an election in 2008.

He returned to Pakistan in March after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest a May 11 general election, but he was disqualified from standing because of pending court cases.

That election was won by the party of Nawaz Sharif - the prime minister Musharraf ousted in his coup 14 years ago.

The latest bail was granted in connection with the death of a separatist leader in the southwestern province of Baluchistan. Musharraf has already been granted bail in two other cases.

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