Zee Media Bureau/Ritesh K Srivastava
Karachi: Embattled Pervez Musharraf, facing treason and other charges, may be able to fly abroad after a gap of 14 months, with a court ordering the Pakistan government to lift a travel ban imposed on him.
The decision of the Sindh High Court made in the absence of prosecution lawyer triggered speculation that there may have been a tacit understanding behind the scene between the powerful military and the civilian government to allow the former army chief to go abroad.
70-year-old Musharraf, who returned to Pakistan in March last year ahead of the general elections ending his over four-year self-imposed exile, has faced multiple trials including one under the high-treason act for which he was placed under house arrest and barred from travelling abroad.
A two-judge bench of the Sindh High Court comprising Justices Mohammad Ali Mazhar and Shahnawaz issued a brief ruling ordering federal government to remove Musharraf`s name from the Exit Control List (ECL).
Musharraf had filed a petition in the court to remove his name from the ECL so that he can visit his ailing mother in the UAE.
Musharraf, the first military ruler in Pakistan`s history to be tried in court, has rejected all the charges levelled against him, including treason. If convicted, he can get death penalty. His trial had put the civilian leadership at odds with the military.
The government had opposed the petition saying he could abscond if allowed to travel abroad.
In its verdict today, the court said that parties opposing its ruling could move the Supreme Court in the next 15 days and made it clear that till then Musharraf cannot leave the country.
Musharraf`s lawyer Farogh Naseem said that a memorandum, which placed the former president`s name on the ECL, will be struck down after 15 days.
He said "if the federal government does not have a vengeful objective, they can withdraw the memorandum before this period is up."
Naseem said the ruling had proved that the cases pending against the former president were politically motivated. "I told the court that my client has no intention of not returning to Pakistan...," he said.
"It is true that now there is no legal hurdle in his going out of the country," Aasia Ishaque of All Pakistan Muslim League said.
"But he will not go out of the country immediately."
She said Musharraf will wait for the period of 15-days as the prosecution has been given time to appeal.
Musharraf`s name was put on the ECL on April 5 last year to ensure that he remains in the country and attends hearings of all the cases he has been named in.
Anyone whose name is on the ECL cannot leave the country without permission.
Musharraf has been indicted for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of the superior courts.
He had seized power by overthrowing the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and ruled till late 2008.
He flew to Karachi last month to undergo medical tests.
Musharraf was also named as an accused in the murder cases of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and former Baloch tribal leader Akbar Bugti in 2006.
With Agency inputs