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Pakistan frees Musharraf from Islamabad house arrest

Pakistan has freed Pervez Musharraf from house arrest. However, the retired general remains under heavy guard in his villa on the edge of Islamabad because of serious threats to his life.

Pakistan freed former President Pervez Musharraf from his house arrest days after he received bail in a case related to the death of a radical cleric, a prison official said on Thursday.

Overnight, authorities withdrew guards from Musharraf's home on the outskirts of the capital, Islamabad, where he has remained under arrest since April, prison official Wajad Ali said, adding that Musharraf could now freely move around Pakistan.

"Musharraf is a free man now," Jawad Paul, the head of Islamabad local administration, told the news agency AFP. "His house is no more a subprison."

On Monday, an Islamabad district court allowed the 70-year-old bail over a deadly raid on a radical mosque in the capital in 2007, the last of the charges against Musharraf dating back to his 1999-2008 rule. Musharraf has faced charges over former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's murder at an election rally in 2007, the death of a Baluch rebel leader in 2006 and the detention of judges in 2007. He had already received bail for those cases.

Nowhere to go?

Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after years of self-imposed exile to run in the May general elections, vowing to "save" the country from economic collapse and militancy. However, authorities barred him from contesting the 2013 poll - or holding any Pakistani office for the rest of his life - which was won convincingly by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharraf ousted from power in the 1999 coup. Instead, Musharraf found himself facing a series of criminal charges accrued over his rule.

Rumors have persisted that Musharraf might reach some sort of deal to leave Pakistan, sparing the country the embarrassment of a former army head being tried in a civilian court. However, his lawyer said Musharraf would remain in Islamabad to fight the charges against him.

The conditions of his release require that Musharraf remain in Pakistan, and he may not wish to exercise his newfound freedom to roam too far within the country. The Taliban have threatened to kill Musharraf, who as president allied Pakistan with the United States in the "war on terror" that followed the September 11, 2001, attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.

mkg/rg (AFP, AP)