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Pakistan High Court orders arrest, Musharraf flees

Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf made a dramatic escape from the Islamabad High Court yesterday after the court ordered his arrest in the case related to the detention of senior judges in 2007.

The high court dismissed Musharraf’s interim bail extension plea and ordered his arrest. Accompanied by his guards, Musharraf (69) appeared before the court to seek an extension on his bail, which the court dismissed.


Illustration/Amit Bandre

The former president lost no time in fleeing from the court premises in a black, bulletproof SUV, with tinted glasses. Escorted by his bodyguards, Musharraf scooted as security personnel looked on helplessly and TV cameras whirred away.

The former army chief, who had returned to Pakistan last month after four years of a self-imposed exile, later reached his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad where he is expected to be arrested police officials said.

Musharraf’s spokesperson Reza Bukhari told local journalists that he was ‘under protection from the Pakistani government’. Musharraf, he said, would abide by the law and had not fled the court. The Pakistani security establishment escorted him, said Bukhari, adding that the court had not acted with wisdom.

“I have spoken to him since he returned from the court. He will pursue the legal channel in front of him. There is an appeal process...,” Bukhari said.

In the previous hearing, the high court had extended Musharraf’s interim bail till April 18.

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

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 Nov 3, 2007. The judges had then refused to take oath under his Provincial Constitutional Order.

A lower court had previously issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf as he failed to appear before it despite several orders. He faces other legal cases, including treason charges for imposing emergency rule, the 2007 assassination of former Premier Benazir Bhutto and the killing of a Baloch leader, Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2006.

Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999 and resigned in August 2008 to avoid impeachment by the parliament, denied all the charges and vowed to defend himself in courts. He returned to Pakistan after over four years of self-imposed exile in Britain and the UAE to lead his All Pakistan Muslim League in the May 11 parliamentary elections. But all four applications to contest the polls, including from Islamabad, have been rejected by the Election Commission.

Ali Dayan Hasan, Director at Human Rights Watch, said Musharraf’s escape from the court ‘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’.
 

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