Friday, April 19, 2013

Pakistan's Pervez Musharraf under house arrest in Islamabad

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Judge declares former president's luxury Islamabad home a sub-jail and orders him to return to court on Monday

Pakistan's former military dictator has been put under house arrest after a day of uncertainty over whether authorities would dare follow a court order to apprehend him.

A judge ordered that Pervez Musharraf's luxury house on the edge of the capital, Islamabad, be declared a sub-jail and told him to return to court on Monday.

Some reports indicated that the police had arrested the former president on Thursday night.

Musharraf, a keen user of social media, has turned to Facebook to protest his innocence. "These allegations are politically motivated and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail," he wrote.

The former president, who seized power in a coup in 1999 before being harried out of the country in 2008 by his opponents, faces several court challenges, including claims of conspiring to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, by not providing her with enough security, and for ordering the killing of an important separatist tribal leader.

But Friday's court hearing stems from the fury of Pakistan's lawyers and judges over his arrest of the senior judiciary during the dying days of his rule.

He returned to Pakistan last month after he was granted pre-arrest bail. It was repeatedly extended, until Thursday when a judge delivered a scathing judgment that said Musharraf's move against the judges in 2007 was an act of terrorism.

Although the judge ordered him to be arrested, he was able to march out of the Islamabad high court to a waiting armoured vehicle that whisked him to his luxury farmhouse, originally conceived of as a retirement home.

On Friday, one of Musharraf's lawyers said he would seek to overturn the arrest by appealing to the supreme court.

The arrest is an extraordinary humiliation for the former army chief whose return to Pakistan from his home in exile in Dubai last month has turned into a debacle.

He has received scant support from the public or any of the leading political parties in his bid to get elected in next month's historic polls.

His dream of re-entering politics has been crushed by election officials who ruled he was ineligible to stand for any of the four seats for which he applied.

Many analysts believe the country's powerful military establishment does not wish to see former high-ranking members tried in civilian courts and will try to intervene to help him. Others are not so sure.

"I don't think the army was in favour of Musharraf returning and tried to dissuade him," said General Hamid Khan, a former senior army commander. "But he decided to come, and now he has to face this. The army is staying out of it." © 2013 Guardian News and Media Limited or its affiliated companies. All rights reserved. | Use of this content is subject to our Terms & Conditions | More Feeds


Warren Murray, Matthew Weaver, Paul Owen 19 Apr, 2013

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