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Musharraf on the run after bail cancellation

April 18, 2013

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Former president and military ruler General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf had returned to Pakistan to contest the May 11 elections after spending almost four years in self-imposed exile. — Photo by AP

ISLAMABAD: General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on Thursday escaped from the premises of the Islamabad High Court after the cancellation of his bail application by Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui in the judges detention case.

Immediately after the bail cancellation, police tried to reach the former military ruler but he was escorted by his personal security, fleeing in his bullet-proof black four-wheeler.

“Islamabad High Court has cancelled Musharraf's bail and ordered his arrest in the judges' detention case today,” said Muhammad Amjad, secretary-general of Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League party.

In a written judgement printed in English, the IHC ordered that: “He (Musharraf) be taken into custody and dealt with in accordance with law.”

The detailed verdict issued by the Islamabad High Court ordered for terrorism to be added to the list of charges against the former military ruler. The order further said that Musharraf's exit from the court earlier during the day warranted for separate charges to be filed against him.

According to reports, Musharraf’s lawyers reached the Supreme Court to file a pre-arrest bail application in order avoid his surrender to the police.

However, the SC returned the 14-page bail application as the timings for the Registrar’s office had ended. Musharraf's lawyers are now expected to resubmit the appeal on Friday.

After departing from the IHC’s premises, Musharraf had reached his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad, a suburban area on the outskirts of Islamabad where security was beefed up and all entry and exit routes to the area were blocked.

The chief coordinator of the APML, Dr Muhammad Amjad, told reporters outside the former military ruler’s Chak Shehzad residence that the party would announce its further course of action in the evening after approaching the apex court.

“I think if an arrest is necessary, the authorities will declare the farmhouse a sub-jail,” Amjad said.

“Musharraf did not flee the court. Actually there was no police official to arrest him and nobody tried to arrest him,” he added.

It remains unclear if and when he could be detained, but a police team which had earlier reached the Chak Shahzad farmhouse apparently to arrest Musharraf, later mysteriously left.

SSP Yaseen Farooque, who led the police, avoided the media, while another official, remained there for some time, left once he received a call from high-ups.

Thursday’s order was the latest humiliating blow against the former Army chief who returned to Pakistan last month to contest elections after four years in self-imposed exile.

Moreover, lawyers in the capital chanted slogans and cheered the court’s directive of bail cancellation whereas the decision was seen as a welcome development by political leaders who have called upon the retired general to surrender to authorities.

Earlier last week, the former military ruler was granted a six-day interim bail after he surrendered before the court in the judges’ detention case in which he had been declared a proclaimed offender.

Musharraf hints at tensions between state pillars

Hours after evading arrest, Musharraf indirectly warned that the Islamabad High Court’s decision may cause “unnecessary tension amongst the various pillars of state and possibly destabilise the country.”

“We expect this unwarranted judicial activism, seemingly motivated by personal vendettas since his (Musharraf’s) return to Pakistan to participate in the upcoming elections, will cease and the Supreme Court, without prejudice, will immediately grant necessary relief following precedence and the Rule of Law; the absence of which will cause mockery of the nation,” said the statement also posted on his official Facebook page on Thursday.

The statement said Musharraf would file an appeal in the Supreme Court against, what he termed, the “ill-conceived decision of Islamabad High Court.”

Judges' detention case

The case is based on an FIR against the retired general registered in August 11, 2009 on the complaint of Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam Ghumman advocate.

He had asked the police to initiate legal proceedings against Musharraf for detaining over 60 judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, after proclamation of a state of emergency in the country on November 3, 2007.

The case is one of three against Musharraf in Pakistani courts. He is also accused of involvement in a conspiracy to murder Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and over the 2006 killing of Baloch nationalist leader Akbar Khan Bugti.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest the May 11 general election.

Election officials had barred Musharraf from running for the National Assembly earlier this week, effectively derailing his attempts to regain a place in politics by standing at the polls.

Although Musharraf's legal battles have provided an electrifying sideshow in the election race, he commands scant popular support and the outcome of the drama is unlikely to have much impact on the final results.

HRW’s response on Musharraf’s escape

This act of the former military ruler “underscores his disregard for due legal process and indicates his assumption that as a former army chief and military dictator he can evade accountability for abuses”, Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch said in a statement.

“It is essential that Pakistan’s military authorities which are protecting the former dictator comply with the Islamabad High Court’s orders and ensure that he presents himself for arrest,” the statement added.

It further said that “continued military protection for General Musharraf will make a mockery of claims that Pakistan’s armed forces support the rule of law and bring the military further disrepute that it can ill afford.”

Human Rights Watch reiterated its call that Musharraf be held accountable for abuses and reaffirmed that a fair trial for the former military ruler is key to ending impunity for abuses by Pakistan’s security forces.