Bomb scare delays Musharraf treason trial

Former Pakistani leader stays at home after weapons found

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ISLAMABAD — A bomb scare delayed the first hearing in a high treason case against former Pakistani leader Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, police and legal officials said.

The case is the most serious legal challenge Musharraf has faced since returning to the country in March in hopes of taking part in upcoming elections. But what followed — a ban on running for office, house arrest and a cascade of legal cases against him — marked a stunning turn in fortunes for a man once considered the most powerful person in Pakistan and a close American ally.

Authorities found an explosive device and two pistols Tuesday about half a mile from Musharraf's residence in the Islamabad suburbs, police official Mohammed Ali said.

A lawyer for Musharraf, Anwar Mansoor Khan, told the court that his client could not attend because of a "serious threat to his life." The chief judge said he understood that it requires "security" to reach the court and directed Musharraf to appear Jan. 1 for another hearing.

The brief hearing held Tuesday at an auditorium at the National Library was expected to be largely procedural but the significance of having a former army chief appearing in front of a treason court would be enormous in a country where the military's power has rarely been challenged.

The Pakistani Taliban threatened to kill Musharraf after his return from abroad. He earned the enmity of militants in Pakistan for his support while in office for the U.S.-led war in Afghanistan and the military offensives he ordered in Pakistan's tribal areas as well as a raid on a mosque in Islamabad.

Musharraf took power during a 1999 coup and ruled Pakistan until 2008 when he was forced to step down. He later left the country and spent about four years in self-imposed exile.

He returned in March and was swiftly arrested on numerous charges.

Meanwhile, a roadside bomb Tuesday struck a vehicle carrying police officers in the northwestern city of Mansehra, killing one of them and wounding two others, local police official Ayaz Khan said.

Also Tuesday, two bombs went off minutes apart in the southern port city of Karachi, killing three people and wounding 26, local police official Mohammed Riaz said.