ISLAMABAD — Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was arrested Friday in connection with his unconstitutional dismissal of top judges while he was president.
A convoy of armed police escorted the former president to court early Friday from his farmhouse on the outskirts of Islamabad.
After appearing before a judge, who swiftly placed him under arrest and ordered him to appear before an anti-terrorism court in two day's time, Musharraf was allowed to return to his house before being taken to Islamabad police headquarters.
Musharraf did not resist the detention, and plans to appeal his case to the Supreme Court.
Speaking outside of the gate of Musharraf’s home, top party leader Mohammad Amjad said the former president is ready to cooperate with any investigation.
“He is under house arrest," said Amjad. "This morning he went to the judicial magistrate by himself and he surrendered himself before the magistrate and said 'I want to be a part of the investigation against the trial which is pending in the Thana secretariat [police station where the case was registered].'”
It is the first time that a former president or military chief has been arrested by a civilian judiciary order. Pakistan has had three military coups and been under military rule for most of its 65-year history.
Government employee Mohammad Omar, who was among a group at an Islamabad market discussing the latest news, said the court’s action sent an important message.
“The message for the military is that they should remain within their limits,” he said. “They are supposed to defend our borders and not get involved in internal matters. It is the job of a democratic government to govern, and the job of the military to defend the border.”
Retired General Talat Masood said the military establishment was not happy about the detention, as it opens the door for additional action against the country’s most powerful institution.
“The army will be worried and very concerned that others may be arrested or will be charged for complicity, because Musharraf will say that 'I am not alone' when the case is opened up," said Masood. "There are several cases against him, so I think he will try to involve his other colleagues, which were with him, and that of course will spread the net.”
Masood, who cautions that much will depend on the judiciary’s approach to the case, says there is little the military can do to stop the process without risking a backlash among the Pakistani people.
Defense analyst Ayesha Siddiqa says the courteous way in which the former president was taken to court shows there are efforts to keep the case from turning ugly.
“This is a compromise," said Siddiqa, explaining that Musharraf's house arrest is significant. "[He was] not arrested from the courtroom, he was arrested from his house in Chak Shahzad — he’ll probably be kept there, you know, until ... the judiciary [can] see how they can get rid of this man without creating too much embarrassment.”
Musharraf initially fled the Islamabad High Court Thursday when the judge refused to extend his pre-trial bail, clearing the way for his arrest. Ahmed Raza Kasuri, one of Musharraf’s senior lawyers, told VOA that the former president would appeal his case all the way to the Supreme Court and denied that the former military dictator would try to leave the country.
“He’s going to stay with the people of Pakistan in their hour of crisis," Kasuri said. "So in the coming days, how the political events take turn, that is to be seen.”
Musharraf seized power in a military coup in 1999. He was forced to step down in 2008 under threat of impeachment. After roughly four years of self-imposed exile, Musharraf returned to Pakistan late last month with plans to run for parliament in general elections this May. Since his return, courts have ruled him ineligible for the poll. He is facing several other pending criminal cases dating to his time in power.