| Pakistan: Musharraf taken into custody on charges of terrorism!

Pervez Musharraf taken into custody on charges of terrorism ~ guardian.co.uk.

Former military dictator returned to ‘save’ Pakistan but must now face possibility of being tried for treason.

Pervez Musharraf, the man who was once Pakistan‘s all-powerful military ruler, was taken into police custody on Friday following a judge’s ruling that he should be tried on terrorism charges.

Any hopes the former president might have had of clinging on to some dignity by being held under house arrest were dashed when police officers came and escorted him from his luxury home on the outskirts of Islamabad to the city’s police headquarters.

He has been remanded in custody for two days while police investigate claims that his sacking of top judges towards the end of his eight-year rule in 2007amounted to terrorism.

Earlier on Friday he had appeared in one of the city’s small, clammy courts where a judge ruled that he should be held under house arrest.

That ruling followed extraordinary scenes on Thursday when a high court judge refused to extend the “pre-arrest bail” he had been granted last month and ordered his arrest, prompting the former army chief to flee from the court and take refuge in his home.

His arrest on Friday ended a potentially embarrassing situation where Musharraf remained at large despite an order from a judge that he be taken into custody.

But after just a couple of hours of detention at home he was taken into police custody for two days.

Earlier Musharraf, a keen user of social media, took to Facebook to decry the charges against him.

“These allegations are politically motivated and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail,” he said.

The former president certainly has few friends among Pakistan’s feisty legal community, who still rage at his 2007 dismissal of judges, including the chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who Musharraf feared would challenge his re-election as president.

In his judgment on Thursday Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ruled that confining judges to house arrest was an “act of terrorism”.

He said Musharraf had “spread fear in the society, insecurity among the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers’ community and terror throughout Pakistan”.

The former president, who seized power in a coup in 1999 before being harried out of the country in 2008 by his opponents, faces several court challenges, including claims of conspiring to assassinate Benazir Bhutto, the former prime minister, by not providing her with enough security and for ordering the killing of an important separatist tribal leader.

Some analysts believe he will ultimately be able to defend himself against the charges. More serious would be if he was accused of treason for imposing emergency law, a charge that can carry the death sentence.

However, only parliament can press treason charges and so far it has been reluctant to do so.

On Friday the senate unanimously passed a resolution calling for Musharraf to be tried for treason.

Some politicians expressed anger that Musharraf had not been immediately taken into custody.

During a campaign trip to Baluchistan, the election frontrunner, Nawaz Sharif, said that the police had been in contempt of court by letting Musharraf flee without being arrested on Thursday.

“If any common man would have done what Musharraf did, then he would’ve surely been behind bars right now,” said Sharif, a former two-time prime minister whose last time in office was cut short by the military coup orchestrated by Musharraf in 1999.

“Why was he escorted home safely by Islamabad police? Because he was an army chief earlier?” He was quoted as saying by local media.

Musharraf has faced a series of setbacks since he flew into Karachi from his self-imposed exile in Dubai on 23 March, announcing he was going to “save” Pakistan. He appeared to be unaware that his political support in the country has largely evaporated since he left in 2008.

He has received scant support from the public or any of the leading political parties in his attempt to get elected in next month’s historic polls.

His dream of re-entering politics has been crushed by election officials who ruled this week that he was ineligible to stand for any of the four seats he had applied for.

Many analysts believe that the country’s still-powerful military establishment, anxious to prevent civilian courts trying former officers, will try to intervene to help him.

Others are not so sure. “I don’t think the army was in favour of him returning and tried to dissuade him,” said General Hamid Khan, a former senior army commander. “But he decided to come, and now he has to face this. The army is staying out of it.”

Supporters of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf protest

Supporters of former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf protest as Islamabad High Court orders his arrest. Photograph: Arshad Arbab/EPA

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