Musharraf: Once Pakistan’s strongman, now a prisoner

Islamabad, April 19 (IANS) He came back from self-imposed exile hoping for another stint in power but found himself under arrest instead. Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf was taken into custody from his farmhouse here and produced in court like a common prisoner Friday, a day after he fled the Islamabad High Court to escape arrest.

Musharraf, 69, who returned last month after four years looking to win political power in the upcoming elections, was at end of day at the police headquarters. On Thursday, the flamboyant politician had been whisked away from the Islamabad High Court premises after the court had ordered his arrest for illegally confining senior judges in 2007.

Speaking to Geo News, a confident Musharraf said he returned to Pakistan out of his own will and respects the courts.

He expressed his determination to face the consequences.

But the future for Musharraf, who ruled for nearly a decade after he grabbed power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is uncertain. He was arrested from his home in Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad and taken to the police headquarters where he is expected to remain for the next two days till he is presented before an Anti-Terrorism Court. According to the law, anyone granted a transit remand must be kept within police jurisdiction.

Earlier in the morning, the former president was presented before judicial magistrate Raja Abbas Shah at the Islamabad District Court. TV images showed a bespectacled Musharraf, wearing a sleeveless jacket, being escorted by police personnel. His home has been declared a sub-jail.

The judge also added a clause pertaining to terrorism in the list of charges against the former army strongman, reported Dawn.

The court noted that the retired army chief could not be given bail because the charges include terrorism.

Muhammad Amjad, a spokesperson for Musharraf’s political party All Pakistan Muslim League, said the magistrate had ordered Musharraf to appear before an anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi after two days.

“Musharraf himself surrendered before the court Friday morning,” Amjad said and denied reports he had been arrested prior to going to court.

The case in which Musharraf was arrested was based on an FIR against the retired general registered in Aug 11, 2009 on the complaint of Chaudhry Mohammad Aslam Ghumman, an 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 Nov 3, 2007.

Xinhua recalled that the judges had refused to take oath under a provisional constitutional order initiated by Musharraf.

A lower court had previously issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf as he failed to appear before the court despite several orders.

Is this the end of the political road for Musharraf, analysts asked as the events unfolded.

Musharraf had returned to Pakistan after four years 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.

Courts in the country have disqualified Musharraf from contesting parliamentary elections for suspending the constitution and imposing emergency in 2007 during his rule, effectively ending any chances of a political splash.

Besides, he faces other serious cases, including treason charges for imposing emergency rule, the 2007 assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto and the killing of 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, has denied all the charges and vowed to defend himself in courts.

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