Former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf was moved into police custody after being arrested yesterday, 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 about half its 66-year existence by the military.
One day after an Islamabad court ordered his arrest, the 69-year-old yesterday 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.
In the afternoon, he was moved by police from his heavily fortified villa to Islamabad police headquarters.
There were conflicting reports about when or whether he would return home, with some supporters suggesting he may stay in police custody until he next appears before an anti-terrorism court.
“General Musharraf has been shifted to police headquarters for investigation,” a senior police official said.
Commentators say it is clear that Musharraf is finished politically. On Tuesday, he was disqualified from contesting the elections, 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 would 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.