ISLAMABAD, April 20: It was after hours-long consultations at the highest level that the local administration of Islamabad declared the farmhouse residence of former military dictator retired General Pervez Musharraf a sub-jail after an anti-terrorist court granted his 14-day judicial remand in the judges’ detention case.
The former president, who had to spend a night at the officers’ mess of the Police Line headquarters on a transit remand, was shifted to his heavily-guarded fortress-like farmhouse on Saturday evening after issuance of a notification declaring Musharraf’s residence a sub-jail on a request by police.
Sources said the district administration and police had decided to constitute a joint investigation team (JIT) under the Anti-terrorism Act to investigate the charges against Musharraf. The team will be headed by SP City Capt (retd) Muhammad Ilyas and it will comprise representatives of the ISI, IB and police. A notification is expected to be issued in a day or two.
The dream of former army chief Gen Musharraf to contest the May 11 elections as the head of his All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) have already turned sour after rejection of nomination papers from all four constituencies in Karachi, Islamabad, Kasur and Chitral.
At the time of his return to the country last month after living in exile for over four years, Gen Musharraf had announced that he was ready to face charges against him in the courts of law.
Besides judges’ detention case, he is also facing charges of abetment in the murders of Benazir Bhutto and Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.
In addition to this, the Supreme Court in its July 31, 2009 judgment had declared his act of imposing emergency in November 2007 as unconstitutional.
Earlier in the day, the chief commissioner’s office turned down the police request, asking it to give reasons for declaring the farm house as sub-jail.
The permission was granted when the police officials said that the accused was a high-profile personality and former head of the state and that he was under threat from militants groups, including the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.
Besides this, the police officials added, the retired general was also facing threats from lawyers and the groups affiliated with Lal Masjid.
They were of the view that police would have to make extraordinary arrangements for transportation of the former president from Adiala Jail to the courts at the time of hearings and anything could go wrong.
Moreover, they said, the Adiala Jail administration was also opposed to the idea of keeping a former president in prison due to security concerns. The sources said the chief commissioner was also informed that already 59 high-profile terrorists belonging to the TTP and other militant groups were detained in the prison and they might become a security risk for the former army chief.
On these grounds, the police were finally granted permission and Gen Musharraf was then shifted to the farmhouse under supervision of the Deputy Inspector General of Prison Punjab.
The police and the bomb disposal squad had thoroughly scanned the farmhouse before transporting Gen Musharraf.
Besides Adiala jail staff members, personnel of Rangers have also been deployed outside the farmhouse.
According to an administration officer, there is no bar on the former president to move inside the house. However, he added, visitors were not allowed to see him.
He said the servants of Gen Musharraf had been allowed to stay with their boss, but his family members would not be able to meet him without permission. He further said that the kitchen of the farmhouse would remain operational, but the jail staff would be responsible to arrange their food.
Earlier in the morning, the judge of the recently established Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) of Islamabad, Syed Kausar Abbas Zaidi, granted 14 days judicial remand of Gen Musharraf in the judges’ detention case with the directive that the accused be presented before the court again on May 4. FIRST_EVER CASE: Interestingly, this is the first-ever case that the Islamabad ATC is hearing.
The case is based on an FIR registered under Section 344 of the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) by a lawyer, Aslam Ghumman, in the Secretariat police station on Aug 11, 2009. The complainant had accused Gen Musharraf of confining 60 judges of the superior courts for more than five months after imposition of emergency on Nov 3, 2007.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC), while dismissing the pre-arrest bail petition of the former president on Thursday, had ordered police to also book him under the Anti-Terrorism Act (ATA) 1997 with the observation that confining the judges in their houses and restraining them from performing their lawful duty was an act of terrorism.
Subsequently, the police in its request for obtaining judicial remand informed the ATC judge that Section 7 of the Anti-Terrorism Act had been added to the FIR.
The counsel for the complainant, Niazullah Niazi and Chaudhry Ashraf Gujjar, opposed the police request for granting judicial remand of Gen Musharraf and contended that the accused must be handed over to police on physical remand as he was still required to be interrogated with regard to all the events that took place after the imposition of emergency.
Qamar Afzal, the counsel for Gen Musharraf, argued that the accused had voluntarily surrendered before a court of law and after having been taken into custody had already been thoroughly interrogated.
The court after hearing the arguments ordered that “keeping in view the request made by the prosecution the accused, namely Pervez Musharraf, is remanded to judicial lockup, who shall be produced before the court on May 4, 2013.”
Earlier, Musharraf’s counsel and the prosecution had requested the ATC judge to hear the matter in his chamber, but the complainant’s lawyers opposed it.
Clad in traditional Shalwar Kameez, Mr Musharraf passed a smile to the lawyers present in the courtroom, but got no response. The lawyers later chanted slogans and even passed some objectionable remarks against the former president in the courtroom and in the presence of the judge after conclusion of the hearing.
Some of the lawyers tried to attack Mr Musharraf but the presence of Rangers and his personal security guards saved him. The former president faced a similar situation outside the courtroom. Little over a dozen supporters of the former president also had a mild scuffle with the lawyers who kept on calling Gen Musharraf a “traitor”.
A group of lawyers also chased the vehicle in which Gen Musharraf was taken out of the court’s premises.