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Musharraf gets protective bail

KARACHI, March 22: The Sindh High Court on Friday granted pre-arrival protective bail to former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf in three high-profile cases in which he was facing arrest warrants, according to court officials and defence counsel.

A single-bench headed by Chief Justice Mushir Alam granted protective bail for 10 days to Gen Musharraf in the case of ‘illegal confinement’ of 62 judges after he declared a state of emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

Another two-member bench headed by Justice Sajjad Ali Shah granted pre-arrival protective bail to the former military leader in two more cases for two weeks in which he was facing non-bailable arrest warrants.

The cases are the murder of former governor and chief minister of Balochistan Nawab Akbar Bugti in August 2007 and the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in a gun-and-bomb attack in Rawalpindi in December 2007.

The court granted the protective bail in the sum of 100,000 in each case.

“After getting the protective bail from the Sindh High Court, Gen Musharraf cannot be arrested in these cases on his homecoming,” said Salman Safdar, a defence counsel.

Another counsel, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, said Gen Musharraf was facing charges of illegal confinement in the detention of senior judges case while he was charged with ‘conspiracy to murder’ in the Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti assassination cases.

Ayla Raza, daughter of Gen Musharraf, filed a constitutional petition in the SHC on behalf of her father on Thursday to seek protective bail so that he could appear in court to defend himself.

Gen Musharraf, according to the petition, plans to return to the country but apprehends arrest for his alleged involvement in different cases.

Mr Kasuri said that after granting the protective bail the court had directed that Gen Musharraf appear in the related trial courts in Quetta, Rawalpindi and Islamabad within the stipulated time.

“We reminded the court that in the past it had granted bail to the politicians living abroad, so similar favour be considered for our client in our petition and he be granted bail,” said Mr Kasuri.

He said the defence counsel told the court that Gen Musharraf would duly appear in court in addition to attending to his political activities.

Ayla Raza, the petitioner, was delighted to know that the bail was granted to her father.

“We respect the court and believe in justice. My father is a brave man. He will face every case against him with the spirit of the soldier that he has always been,” she told reporters outside the courtroom.

Aasia Ishaq, information secretary of Gen Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League, said: “Now no one can arrest president sahib because of the cases as we have got protective bail.”

Around two dozen APML activists gathered on the second floor of the main SHC building, manned by an increased security by police and the APML’s own guards.

Later, they gathered outside the court building, flashed victory signs and chanted slogans “Long live Musharraf”, “Pakistan comes first, everything comes next” and “Musharraf will come back, he will bring about prosperity”.

The outgoing government led by the ruling PPP always insisted that Musharraf would be arrested if he returned to the country and last year he delayed a planned homecoming after being threatened with detention.

Benazir’s son and PPP chairman Bilawal Zardari-Bhutto has accused Gen Musharraf of murdering his mother.

Dawn contacted some senior PPP leaders to seek their comments on the pre-arrival bail granted to Musharraf, but they avoided to speak on the issue.