Musharraf faces exile in Britain

Last Updated: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 21:43

London: Former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf, who has been ruled guilty of illegally imposing emergency two years ago, faces exile in Britain because his presence may destabilise the country, a British newspaper reported Saturday.

Musharraf, a former military general who was ousted from power in August 2008, has been in Britain for the past two months and is reported to be on a luxury cruise.

He is also reported to have bought an expensive apartment in London.

Now, The Guardian said, he may have to extend his stay in Britain -- a move made at the urging of Pakistan`s army chief General Ashfaq Kayani.

It said that although unlikely, Musharraf could be prosecuted on grounds of treason after Pakistan`s Supreme Court said this week the former president`s imposition of national emergency in 2007 was illegal.

Musharraf, who suspended the constitution as part of emergency provisions in November 2007, did not appear for the hearing, choosing to remain in London.

However, the Supreme Court also turned down a petition by a lawyer to try the former president for treason.

Treason prosecution was also unlikely, said The Guardian, "because any move would have to be initiated by the government, which is keen to avoid confrontation with the powerful military".

Punishment for high treason in Pakistan includes death.

Talat Masood, a retired general and former Musharraf confidante, told the paper that Musharraf was unlikely to return to Pakistan soon.

"He will stay away and the army will advise him to stay away. I hear he`s on a luxury cruise. I think that might be extended for some time," Masood said.

Cyril Almeida, a political analyst, said: "My gut feeling is that Musharraf isn`t a guy to live in exile permanently. He will return at some point but right now the political heat is too much. His presence in the country is seen as being too destabilising."

If the report is correct, Musharraf will join a long line of Pakistani political leaders who have had to seek exile in Britain because of political instability -- and threats to their lives -- in their home country.

These leaders have included former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated when she returned; her husband Asif Ali Zardari, the current president; the country`s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) leader Altaf Hussain.

Hussain, a powerful figure in the province of Sindh who is blamed for fomenting violence in Pakistan, continues to live in London.

Bureau Report



First Published: Saturday, August 1, 2009 - 21:43

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