Pervez Musharraf held at police headquarters
Last Updated: Friday, April 19, 2013, 23:49
  
Islamabad: Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was moved into police custody after being arrested on Friday, an unprecedented move against a former army chief of staff ahead of key elections.

A magistrate ordered him under house arrest for two days, but hours later he was moved to police headquarters over the sacking of senior judges while he was in power, a humiliation for a man who was preparing to stand for election next month.

It is the first arrest of any former chief of the Pakistani army, considered the most powerful institution in the nuclear-armed country, which has been ruled for around half its 66-year existence by the military.

One day after an Islamabad court ordered his arrest, the 69-year-old on Friday surrendered to a magistrate, who designated his home a sub-jail and told him to reappear before an anti-terrorism court in two days' time.

Live TV footage showed Musharraf arriving at court dressed in a traditional shalwar kamiz and waistcoat, flanked by police.

Upon his return home to the smart Chak Shahzad suburb, Musharraf took to Facebook to say he would fight the charges.

"These allegations are politically motivated and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail," he said in a statement.

But in the afternoon, he was moved by police from his heavily fortified villa to Islamabad police headquarters.

A pedestrian walks past an election poster of former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf in Islamabad

"The government will follow court orders in letter and spirit and Mr Musharraf will get equal treatment," caretaker information minister Arif Nizami told a press conference in Islamabad.

There were conflicting reports about when or whether he would return home, with some supporters suggesting he may stay in police custody until he appears before the anti-terrorism court.

"General Musharraf has been shifted to police headquarters for investigation," a senior police official told AFP, refusing to provide any further details.

A spokesman for Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) initially told AFP he had been put on a two-day remand at home, but said later that the general could stay in the police headquarters until his next hearing.

The arrest order relates to Musharraf's decision to sack judges when he imposed emergency rule in November 2007, a move which hastened his downfall.

Supporters of former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf rally in Quetta on April 19, 2013

Despite various promises to appeal, Musharraf's legal team said Friday that no judges were available to hear their requests and voiced fears that bail may not even be sought on the grounds that it could be turned down.

Commentators say it is clear that Musharraf is finished politically. He was on Tuesday disqualified from contesting the elections, set to mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government completes a full-term in office.

Lawyers have also petitioned Pakistan's top court to try him for treason for imposing emergency law, punishable by death or life in prison, although it will have to be the state that initiates any trial.

He also faces charges of conspiracy to murder opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and over the death of a rebel leader during a 2006 military operation.

Political analyst Hasan Askari warned that any arrest or trial risked overshadowing the general elections, which will be held on May 11.

"The judiciary is overdoing it. It should show some restraint... It can grant bail now and take up the case after the election which should be our primary objective," he told AFP.

Musharraf's supporters say the arrest order was nothing more than a settling of scores for his dismissal of judges nearly six years ago.

On Thursday, Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui added terrorism to the charges, accusing him of spreading "fear in the society, insecurity amongst the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers' community and terror throughout Pakistan".

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup, which was widely welcomed at the time in Pakistan, but he was forced out and threatened with impeachment in 2008.

The elected prime minister he ousted, Nawaz Sharif, is now the front-runner in the general election campaign.

AFP


First Published: Friday, April 19, 2013, 09:06


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