Pakistani court remands Musharraf until next hearing

JUDGEMENT DAY: :Lawyers rallied at the courthouse to jeer at the former Pakistani president, who says the charges he faces for judicial sackings in 2007 are political


Sun, Apr 21, 2013 - Page 6

A Pakistani judge yesterday ordered that former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf be held in custody for two more weeks until the next hearing in a case related to his 2007 decision to sack and detain several judges.

The hearing was the latest act in the drama surrounding Musharraf that erupted earlier this week and climaxed with his arrest on Friday after he mounted a speedy escape from another court hearing.

Musharraf’s lawyer, Malik Qamar Afzal, said the judge ruled that the former president would be given judicial remand, which means that he would be held in jail until the next hearing in the case on May 4. The ruling was confirmed by a court official who did not want to be identified because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

Musharraf’s legal team has been pushing for his estate on the edge of the capital, Islamabad, to be declared a sub-jail, which would mean that he would essentially be held under house arrest.

Musharraf was brought to the Islamabad courthouse surrounded by heavy security as supporters and opponents gathered outside the court.

The ex-president’s 2007 decision to sack and detain the judges — including the Pakistani chief justice — after declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution sparked widespread protests that weakened his government so much that he was forced to call new elections and eventually step down.

A judge has said that the decision amounts to terrorism, which is why the case was sent to an anti-terrorism court.

Despite Taliban death threats and a raft of legal challenges, Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after four years in self-imposed exile to make a comeback and contest the May 11 election. However, he met with little popular support and was disqualified from running.

A judge on Thursday ordered his arrest, sparking a dramatic escape by Musharraf from court in a speeding vehicle, after which he holed up in his heavily guarded house until he was taken into custody on Friday.

When Musharraf entered the court yesterday, he was surrounded by a phalanx of police and paramilitary Rangers. Pakistani lawyers in their traditional black suits and white shirts chanted: “Countless curses on Musharraf,” while supporters shouted: “Go Musharraf, go.”

Musharraf has described the allegations as politically motivated:

“These allegations are politically motivated, and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail,” he said in a message posted on his Facebook page after he was arrested.

Musharraf seized control of Pakistan in a coup in 1999 when he was the Pakistani Army chief of staff and spent nearly a decade in power before being forced to step down in 2008.

His arrest is a significant act in a country where senior Pakistani Army officers have long seemed untouchable.