Musharraf escapes after arrest order
ISLAMABAD (PAN): In a dramatic scene, former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf on Thursday sped away from a court in Islamabad after his security team pushed past policemen as his bail was revoked in a treason case.
Musharraf jumped into a black SUV and escaped as a member of his security team hung to the side of the vehicle, local TV broadcast footage showed.
Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 as the army chief and spent nearly a decade in power before being forced to step down in 2008.
He returned last month after four years in self-imposed exile to make a political comeback despite legal challenges and Taliban death threats, but has since faced paltry public support.
A court in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday disqualified Musharraf from running in the parliamentary election scheduled for May 11, likely squashing his hopes for political comeback.
The case before the Islamabad High Court on Thursday involved Musharraf’s decision to place senior judges under house arrest in 2007 when he declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution.
Musharraf obtained pre-arrest bail for this case and two others before he returned to the country, meaning he could not be arrested when he landed — a feature of Pakistan’s legal system.
The Islamabad High Court refused to extend that bail on Thursday and ordered his arrest, said police officer Ali Asghar.
The court previously agreed to extend his bail in the case for six days on April 12. It’s unclear why they chose to reject it this time.
Policemen were deployed at the court who could have detained the former military ruler, but he managed to escape, said Asghar.
Many of the policemen and paramilitary soldiers at the court did not seem to try to prevent Musharraf from leaving as he pushed past them. Musharraf’s lawyer, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, complained that the court didn’t listen to their arguments. “It is a one-sided decision,” said Kasuri.
The former military ruler’s legal team will contact the Supreme Court on Thursday to challenge the decision, said the secretary general of Musharraf’s party, Muhammad Amjad.
Musharraf’s decision to flee the court could put the Pakistani army in an awkward situation. The former general is protected by paramilitary soldiers who officially report to the Interior Ministry, but are headed by senior army officers.
If convicted of treason, Musharraf could face the death penalty or life in prison. But the federal government would have to file charges against the former military ruler, which it has not yet done. The petitions in Islamabad High Court accusing Musharraf of treason were all filed by individuals.
Musharraf faces similar accusations from petitions filed before the Supreme Court. He also faces legal charges in two other cases. One involves allegations that Musharraf didn’t provide adequate security to former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, who was killed in a gun and suicide attack in 2007. The other relates to the death of a nationalist leader in Baluchistan in 2006.
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