Pakistan's former president Pervez Musharraf was yesterday disqualified from contesting elections next month, crushing his ambition to "save" the troubled nuclear-armed nation just weeks after his return from exile.
Pakistan goes to the polls on May 11 for an election that will mark the first time that a civilian government has handed over power at the ballot box after completing a full term in office, in a country used to extended periods of military rule.
The election campaign has got off to a lacklustre start, and been marred by violence and Taliban threats.
Yesterday, a bomb targeted a convoy of the main opposition Pakistan Muslim League-N party, killing four people.
Officials disqualified Musharraf a day after he unveiled his All Pakistan Muslim League party manifesto at a press conference overshadowed by questions about legal cases dating to his nine years in power.
The retired general is on bail over the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the 2006 death of a rebel leader from the region of Baluchistan, as well as for sacking judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007.
On Monday, however, he said: "The only thing in my heart was to save Pakistan, and now I am here I have the same commitment, that I will save Pakistan."
The 69-year-old, who returned to Pakistan on March 24, applied to run for parliament in four seats but was rejected immediately from all but the northern district of Chitral, close to the border with Afghanistan. Lawyers appealed against his approval in Chitral, and yesterday a court official said Musharraf's nomination had been thrown out on the grounds that he violated the constitution in 2007.
Musharraf's team have vowed to appeal against the decision in the Supreme Court, which is also hearing a separate petition from lawyers demanding that Musharraf face trial for treason dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.
Lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri said the decision was an insult to "an internationally known person" and would show the world "what democracy we have".
"Let us see what the Supreme Court decides. We are hopeful we will get justice," said Mohammad Amjad, All Pakistan Muslim League candidate in Islamabad, denying that the decision would have any impact on the party's campaign.
Commentators, though, said Musharraf was finished, given the hostility in the Supreme Court to the man who dismissed the current chief justice in 2007.
"Politically, he never had any future," political analyst Hasan Askari said. "I think he miscalculated his position, and his advisers really fooled him advising him to come back."
"I think he should sit back in Dubai and the UK, and write another book," Askari added.