Musharraf moved from house arrest to police custody

Ex-miliary ruler initially put under house arrest after his detention on charges stemming from the sacking of judges when he was in power

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Saturday, 20 April, 2013, 2:20am


Pakistan's former military ruler 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 around 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 shalwar kameez 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. But in the afternoon, he was moved by police from his 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 in two days' time.

"General Musharraf has been shifted to police headquarters for investigation," a senior police official said, refusing to provide any further details.

A spokesman for Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) initially said he had been put on a two-day remand at home, but said later that the general could stay in the police headquarters until his next hearing.

The arrest order relates to Musharraf's decision to sack judges when he imposed emergency rule in November 2007, a move that hastened his downfall.

Despite various promises to appeal, Musharraf's legal team said no judges were available to hear their requests and voiced fears that bail may not even be sought on the grounds that it could be turned down.

Commentators say it is clear that Musharraf is finished politically. On Tuesday he was disqualified from contesting the elections, to mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government completes a full-term in office.

His case also presents complications for the army chief, General Ashfaq Kayani, who may have to decide whether to intervene to protect Musharraf, sparking a new conflict with the judiciary, or watch him be prosecuted. If Musharraf is sent to prison, it would be the first time an army chief has been put behind bars in the country's 65-year history.

Political analyst Hasan Askari warned that any arrest or trial risked overshadowing the elections, set to mark the first democratic transition of power after a civilian government has completed a full term.

"The judiciary is overdoing it. It should show some restraint. It can grant bail now and take up the case after the election, which should be our primary objective," he said.

Musharraf's supporters say the arrest order was nothing more than a settling of scores.

Additional reporting by Associated Press