ISLAMABAD, April 18:- A Pakistani court on Thursday ordered the arrest of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for his controversial decision to dismiss judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007, officials said.
It was not immediately clear if or when the retired general would be arrested. Musharraf swept out of the Islamabad court, facing no resistance from a heavy security contingent and driving away in a jeep escorted by his bodyguards. Police confirmed to AFP that Musharraf had been driven to his farm house on the edge of the capital.
“The judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ordered that the interim bail is dismissed,” Musharraf’s defence lawyer Qamar Afzal told AFP. The case is one of three against Musharraf in the Pakistani courts. He is also accused of conspiracy to murder opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and over the death of a Baluch rebel leader during a military operation in 206.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan on March 24 after four years of self-imposed exile in Dubai and London, vowing to contest May general elections having secured pre-arrest bail in connection with all three cases.
But his homecoming has been met by a dismal welcome from a support base that has all but evaporated since he stepped down in 2008 after nine years in office as the nuclear-armed country focuses on a key democratic transition of power next month.
On Tuesday, he was disqualified from contesting the May 11 polls because of the legal cases against him, ending his ambitions of a political comeback built on the promise that he alone could “save” the country from poverty and insecurity.
Musharraf has been in and out of courts in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi since his return home but judges have always previously extended his bail. A spokesman for Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League said his supporters had been shocked by Thursday’s arrest order.
“We were quite sure that the judge would extend the bail, but it came to our surprise when the judge said bail was dismissed and he should be arrested,” APML spokesman Muhammad Amjad told AFP. The US-based watchdog, Human Rights Watch, called on the military authorities overseeing Musharraf’s protection to ensure that he presents himself for arrest.
“General Musharraf’s act today 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,” said HRW Pakistan director, Ali Dayan Hasan.
“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,” he added.
On April 12, the same Islamabad high court extended his bail over the judges’ case in a 20-minute hearing accompanied by massive security to protect Musharraf, whom the Taliban have threatened to assassinate.
On Wednesday, a court in Rawalpindi also extended his bail until April 24 over Bhutto’s killing. The former prime minister died in a gun and suicide attack at the end of an election rally in the garrison city on December 27, 2007.
In 2010 a UN report said Bhutto’s death could have been prevented and accused Musharraf’s government of failing to give her adequate protection. Bhutto’s son, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, who is chairman of the outgoing Pakistan People’s Party, has accused Musharraf of her murder.
Musharraf’s team has vowed to appeal against his disqualification from contesting elections in the Supreme Court, but Pakistan’s top court is considered unlikely to reinstate his nomination.
The court is already hearing a separate petition from lawyers demanding that Musharraf face trial for treason for imposing emergency rule in November 2007. His detractors have called for him to face the death penalty.
(Copyright @ AFP / NNA Nepal)