Musharraf faces arrest for sacking judges

AFP-JIJI

A Pakistani court Thursday ordered the arrest of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for his controversial decision to dismiss judges when he imposed emergency rule in 2007.

It was not immediately clear if or when the retired general would be arrested. Musharraf was driven from the Islamabad court to his farmhouse on the edge of the capital.

“The judge, Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui, ordered that the interim bail is dismissed,” said Musharraf’s defense lawyer.

The case is one of three against Musharraf in Pakistani courts. He is also accused of conspiracy to murder opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and over the death of a Baluch rebel leader during a 2006 military operation.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan on March 24 after four years of self-imposed exile in Dubai and London, vowing to contest general elections next month and having secured pre-arrest bail in connection with all three cases.

But his homecoming has been met by a dismal welcome from a support base that has all but evaporated since he stepped down in 2008. On Tuesday, he was disqualified from contesting the May 11 election because of the legal cases against him.

Musharraf has been in and out of courts in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi since his return home, but judges have always previously extended his bail.

A spokesman for Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League party said his supporters had been shocked by Thursday’s arrest order. “We were quite sure that the judge would extend the bail,” party spokesman Muhammad Amjad said.

The U.S.-based watchdog Human Rights Watch called on the military authorities overseeing Musharraf’s protection to ensure that he presents himself for arrest.

“Gen. Musharraf’s act today 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,” said HRW Pakistan director Ali Dayan Hasan.

“Continued military protection for Gen. Musharraf will make a mockery of claims that Pakistan’s armed forces support the rule of law and bring the military further disrepute that it can ill afford.”