Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf fled a courtroom in Islamabad Thursday after judges revoked bail in a case relating to his actions while in power. He speedily left the Islamabad High Court surrounded by security guards. Musharraf had returned to Pakistan in March to contest national elections after four years of self-imposed exile.
In Pakistan, when a court rescinds bail, defendants are typically detained while in the courtroom.
Musharraf’s senior party leader, Mohammad Amjad, told reporters outside the courthouse the former leader would appeal the case to the Supreme Court, then accept the consequences.
Amjad said, “If Islamabad police take action and the Supreme Court does not grant bail, we are ready to accept arrest.”
The order was the latest setback for Musharraf, who in 1999 seized power in a coup and ruled the nation of 180 million for nearly a decade. Earlier, election officials and courts rejected his attempts to run as a candidate in the country’s May 11 parliamentary elections.
Retired General Talat Masood says the court action reveals an historic assertion of judicial power in a country where the military has largely been considered untouchable.
"Well, I would say in a way it is extraordinary from Pakistani standards, that a person who has been a president, who has been the army chief for more or less 11 years and is now has been arrested, is something transformational in fact in Pakistan history and something unique, and it also shows that democracy and the institutions in Pakistan are strengthening, are getting stronger, and in some ways it is triumph for justice as well," he said.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after his lawyers secured pre-trial bail on several pending legal cases.
The Islamabad High Court canceled Musharraf’s bail and ordered his arrest in connection with allegations that he acted unconstitutionally when he imposed emergency rule and ordered the house arrest of the country’s senior judges in November 2007.
Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League party fared poorly in Pakistan’s 2008 election and he later left the country in self-imposed exile.
Musharraf has commanded little support since his return.
Supreme Court lawyer Choudhry Muhammad Ashraf Gujar said the high court action was a victory for justice in Pakistan.
"With this decision, this message will go on, and people will have more confidence on our judicial system, that this is not that judicial system which has been in the past, that it has been punishing the poor and common man and has been letting free the person with the means and the power," he said.
Not everyone thinks the arrest of the former military ruler is in the best interests of the country. A candidate from Musharraf’s party, Raja Jahangir, accused the judges of acting out of bitterness.
He says he thinks today’s decision is incorrect and is against the poor people of Pakistan. He says there is no issue, there is no problem, something else is going on, this is just vindictiveness, and he does not accept this.
Riot police have barricaded entry to Musharraf’s farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad as small crowds of Musharraf supporters gather nearby. The Supreme Court has ordered Musharraf not be allowed to leave the country.