ISLAMABAD, Oct 9: After over six months of being in detention, former president and army chief retired Gen Pervez Musharraf could now be a free man. The Supreme Court granted him bail on Wednesday after accepting his appeal against rejection of a similar plea by the Balochistan High Court in the Nawab Akbar Bugti murder case.

A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nasir-ul-Mulk granted bail to Gen Musharraf in return for two surety bonds of Rs1 million each to be submitted to the SC registrar.

The killing of the Bugti tribe chief was the last case under which the former military ruler was detained in his Islamabad farmhouse which had been declared a sub-jail.

On May 20, an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi granted him bail in the murder case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, and on June 11 the Islamabad High Court ordered his release in a case relating to detention of superior court judges during the Nov 2007 emergency.

“He (Gen Musharraf) can move around freely and even leave for Dubai or London where he commands great respect because his name is not on the exit control list (ECL),” said Advocate Ahmed Raza Kasuri who had represented Gen Musharraf in the Supreme Court against petitions seeking initiation of treason case against him. But he hastened to add that the political base of Gen Musharraf would be Islamabad.

He told Dawn that Mr Musharraf’s name had been put in the ECL on the Supreme Court’s order, but after the July 3 verdict of closing the treason case the order had lost its legal value.

“When both Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and former president Asif Zardari facing allegations of corruption in a number of cases can go abroad and return, why not Mr Musharraf,” he asked.

Mr Kasuri said the sub-jail status of Mr Musharraf’s Chak Shahzad residence would automatically revert to an ordinary private house after the grant of bail and the Adiyala jail staff would leave the house unless assigned for security reasons.

Advocate Qamar Afzal, who had also represented Gen Musharraf in the Supreme Court, said that after the bail the house would no more be a sub-jail.

An FIR was registered under sections 302 and 304 of the Pakistan Penal Code against Gen Musharraf and others in 2009 for their alleged involvement in the Aug 25, 2006, murder of Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Advocate Raja Mohammad Ibrahim Satti, representing Gen Musharraf, informed the Supreme Court on Wednesday that his client had challenged the July 30 BHC order because it had rejected the bail plea on the ground that the applicant (Gen Musharraf) had not been produced before the trial court or within its territorial jurisdiction in Balochistan.

The counsel argued that his client could not appear before the BHC because of security threat. He said the chief commissioners of Lahore and Islamabad had acknowledged in their reports that Gen Musharraf faced at least 43 death threats. Besides, he added, Balochistan police had suggested to the provincial government that Gen Musharraf should be kept in Islamabad for security reasons.

Additional Prosecutor of Balochistan Tahir Khattak insisted that the former military ruler was involved in the conspiracy to kill Akbar Bugti.

Meanwhile, the All Pakistan Muslim League of Gen Musharraf welcomed the SC verdict. Its Secretary General Dr Mohammad Amjad said it was good news for the people that their most sincere, true and capable leader was now among them and he would be able to lead the nation.

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