Musharraf enjoys life of luxury in detention

Pakistan's former leader may be under house arrest, but he writes his memoirs, works out and eats meals cooked by his personal chef

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Thursday, 03 October, 2013, 4:34am

At the end of a quiet lane snaking through the well-heeled Islamabad suburb of Chak Shahzad, a terracotta-coloured house modelled on a Moroccan courtyard home stands amid spreading orchards and wheat fields.

It would be a restful, bucolic scene, were it not for the 300 policemen, paramilitaries, soldiers, snipers and anti-terrorist officers on hand to guard the owner, Pervez Musharraf, former leader of Pakistan.

The one-time military strongman is under house arrest but enjoying detention deluxe: writing his memoirs, working out each day and eating meals cooked by his personal chef.

The former general, who ruled from 1999 to 2008 after deposing an elected government in a bloodless coup, returned to Pakistan in March after years of self-imposed exile in London.

He returned vowing to stand in the general election and "save" Pakistan, but his arrival restarted a barrage of legal cases related to his time in power, including murder charges over the death of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

The Chak Shahzad house was declared a "sub-jail" by a court in April, and he has lived there in detention ever since, as the cases against him grind through Pakistan's slow-moving judicial system.

As the man who allied his country with Washington in its "war on terror" after the 9/11 attacks, Musharraf is in danger from Islamist militants who have vowed to kill him.

The house he commissioned back in 2006, at the height of his power, was still under construction when he was forced from power and into exile. It is now both his prison and his refuge.

"The house was 95 per cent finished before he left, but the first time he spent a night in the house was after he came back this year," said Hammad Husain, the architect.

Aides say Musharraf, 70, is keeping his body in shape with 75-minute workouts every morning and his mind sharp with reading and writing.

"He is writing a second book. I have seen the text. He has written substantially but there is still work to be done," his official spokesman, Raza Bokhari, said.

The new volume will follow on from his first book of memoirs published in 2006, In the Line of Fire.

"It is picking up from 2007 onwards, from the peak of his popularity to his downfall, to life in self-imposed exile and then formation of a political party and return to Pakistan," Bokhari said.

Despite the rigorous security, provided under the auspices of the tough Adyala prison in Rawalpindi, Musharraf still fears his enemies will try to get to him.

"His food is not prepared in prison but on the premises, by his cook, for security reasons. He is afraid of being poisoned," a prison source said.

He keeps a close eye on his legal tussles, accusations his entourage dismiss as politically motivated, "false, fabricated and fictitious".

In Pakistan, court cases can drag on interminably, but charges can also be dropped overnight when an agreement emerges to let the accused leave the country.

His food is not prepared in prison but on the premises, by his cook, for security reasons. He is afraid of being poisoned
Prison source on Musharraf's meals

There have been rumours for months of a possible deal to let Musharraf go back into exile, to avoid a clash between the government and the all-powerful army, which is keen to avoid seeing one of its own tried by civilians.

His team admit the cases against him could last years, but insist the old soldier is in top form to "fight another fight he has to fight".

"He is in very good spirits. He's a strong person," said an aide.