Pervez Musharraf placed under house arrest

A Pakistani court ordered the arrest of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who immediately sped off to his villa on the edge of Islamabad.

Zee Media Bureau

Islamabad: Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has been placed under house arrest, a report said on Thursday.

After a high-level meeting at the Presidency, Musharraf`s farmhouse in the suburbs of Islamabad has been declared a sub-jail.

On a day of high drama, Musharraf fled from the Islamabad High Court on Thursday after it had ordered his arrest in a 2007 case and remained closeted in his farmhouse.

Dozens of riot police carrying shields and batons massed outside Musharraf`s villa and closed access to the street in the upmarket suburb of Chak Shahzad, but there were no moves to take the 69-year-old into custody.

Earlier in the day, the Islamabad High Court dismissed Musharraf`s interim bail extension plea and ordered his arrest in the case related to the detention of senior judges, Geo News reported.

Accompanied by his guards, Musharraf, 69, appeared before the court to seek an extension in his bail. However, the court dismissed his plea and ordered his arrest.

The former president lost no time in fleeing from the court premises in a black, bullet-proof SUV with tinted glasses. Escorted by his bodyguards, Musharraf zoomed out of the court premises as security personnel looked on and TV cameras whirred away.

The former Army chief and president, who had returned to Pakistan last month after four years of self-imposed exile, later reached his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Police promptly took up guard outside Musharraf`s farmhouse and blocked the way.

As the drama unfolded, Musharraf`s lawyers went to the Supreme Court to file a pre-arrest bail application so that he does not have surrender to the police.

However, the apex court returned the 14-page bail application as the timings for the Registrar`s office had ended.

His lawyers are now likely to again submit the application on Friday.

Referring to Musharraf, Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui said he had "spread fear in the society, insecurity amongst the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers` community and terror throughout Pakistan".

He said sacking judges was "an act of terrorism", declined Musharraf`s request to extend his bail and summoned the Islamabad police chief to court on Friday to explain why Musharraf had not been detained.

In a written judgement printed in English, he ordered that: "He (Musharraf) be taken into custody and dealt with in accordance with law."

Musharraf`s legal team said Thursday`s drama had not dented his optimism.

"General Musharraf is hale and hearty. He is in high spirits, there is no change in his confidence level. He is sipping coffee and smoking cigars," his lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri told reporters outside his villa.

Dozens of supporters chanted "this is injustice" and "long live Musharraf" as his office appealed against the order in the Supreme Court, denouncing the decision as motivated by "personal vendettas".

"We expect this unwarranted judicial activism, seemingly motivated by personal vendettas... will cease and the Supreme Court, without prejudice, will immediately grant necessary relief," his office said.

A spokesman for his All Pakistan Muslim League described the retired general as "composed and confident".

APML spokesman Muhammad Amjad said: "Musharraf did not flee the court. Actually there was no police official to arrest him and nobody tried to arrest him".

Musharraf`s spokesperson Reza Bukhari told journalists that he was "under protection from the Pakistan government".

Musharraf, he said, would follow all the rules of law and had not fled the court. He was escorted by the Pakistani security establishment, Bukhari said, adding that the court had not acted with wisdom.
"I have spoken to him since he returned from the court. He will pursue the legal channel in front of him. There is an appeal process...," Bukhari was quoted as saying.

In the previous hearing, the high court had extended Musharraf`s interim bail till April 18.

The case was based on an FIR against the retired general registered in August 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 November 03, 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 arrest warrant for Musharraf as he failed to appear before the court despite several orders.

He faces other legal 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 Parliament, has denied all the charges and vowed to defend himself in courts.

He returned to Pakistan after over four years of self-imposed exile 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.

Ali Dayan Hasan, the Pakistan director at Human Rights Watch, said in a statement that the former military ruler`s escape from the court "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".

"It is essential that Pakistan`s military authorities which are protecting the former dictator comply with the Islamabad High Court`s orders and ensure that he presents himself for arrest," the statement added.

(With Agency inputs)