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Pakistan's Musharraf flees court to avoid arrest

A court in Peshawar disqualified Musharraf from running in the parliamentary election scheduled for 11 May.

Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Image: AP Photo/B.K. Bangash

FORMER PAKISTANI MILITARY ruler Pervez Musharraf and his bodyguards pushed past policemen and sped away from court in the country’s capital today to avoid arrest after his bail was revoked in a treason case.

The 69-year-old Musharraf jumped into a black SUV and escaped as a member of his security team hung to the side of the vehicle in a dramatic scene that was broadcast live on Pakistani TV. Lawyers shouted, “Look who is running, Musharraf is running!”

He raced to his large compound on the outskirts of Islamabad, which is protected by high walls, razor wire and guard towers. He holed up inside as dozens of police and elite commandos blocked the main road that runs to the compound and kept the converging crowd at bay. About 20 Musharraf supporters held banners and shouted slogans in favor of the former military ruler.

None of the security forces protecting the compound made any move to arrest Musharraf, likely because they were awaiting word from senior officials trying to figure out how to deal with a delicate situation.

Coup

This week has gone from bad to worse for Musharraf, who seized power in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief and spent nearly a decade in power before being forced to step down in 2008. He returned last month after four years in self-imposed exile to make a political comeback despite legal challenges and Taliban death threats, but has since faced paltry public support.

A court in the northwestern city of Peshawar on Tuesday disqualified Musharraf from running in the parliamentary election scheduled for 11 May, likely squashing his hopes to return to power.

Today’s case before the Islamabad High Court involved Musharraf’s decision in 2007 to detain senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, when he declared a state of emergency and suspended the constitution. The decision outraged many Pakistanis, and fueled a nationwide protest movement by lawyers that eventually resulted in Musharraf stepping down under the threat of impeachment.

Before he returned to the country nearly a month ago, Musharraf was granted bail for the judges’ case and two others, meaning he could not be arrested when he landed — a feature of Pakistan’s legal system.

But the bail agreement was temporary. An Islamabad High Court judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, who had extended the bail agreement once on 12 April refused to do so again and ordered Musharraf’s arrest, police officer Ali Asghar said.

Many policemen and paramilitary soldiers were on duty at the court, but they seemed caught off-guard and nobody appeared to try to prevent Musharraf from leaving as he pushed past them.

- AP

Read: Musharraf disqualified from next month’s election in Pakistan >

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Associated Press

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