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PAKISTAN

Pakistani government appeals against lifting of travel ban on Pervez Musharraf

Government's move ends hope of face-saving deal allowing former leader to escape charges

PUBLISHED : Saturday, 14 June, 2014, 4:20pm
UPDATED : Sunday, 15 June, 2014, 4:07am

Pakistan's government yesterday appealed to the country's Supreme Court to overturn a decision allowing Pervez Musharraf to leave the country, his lawyer said, prolonging the ex-military ruler's legal woes.

The move came after a court in Karachi ordered the lifting of a travel ban imposed on the 70-year-old last year following his return to Pakistan in a failed attempt to stand for election.

Musharraf has said he wants the travel ban removed so he can visit his sick mother in Dubai, but many in Pakistan see it as a ruse to flee the country and avoid a litany of criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.

"The federal government has filed an appeal in the Supreme Court," said Ahmad Raza Kasuri, a member of Musharraf's legal team.

Musharraf has been battling several court cases since his return - including treason charges for imposing emergency rule in 2007 - stoking tensions between civilian authorities and the powerful military.

Akram Sheikh, a senior lawyer who is the chief prosecutor in the treason case, confirmed an appeal had come from the attorney general's office. "I hope it will be fixed for [hearing on] Monday," he said.

Thursday's decision to overturn the travel ban had briefly raised hopes by Musharraf's supporters of a face-saving deal between civilian authorities and the powerful army that would ease tensions at a time when the country is fighting a resurgent Taliban.

Musharraf has been staying with his daughter in Karachi since April, where he travelled for tests at a navy-run hospital. He has been undergoing medical treatment since January for heart problems. After his indictment for treason in March, Musharraf asked to be allowed to visit his mother, who is in her 90s, but was denied permission.

The former ruler came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposing then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who won reelection last year when Pakistan underwent the first civilian handover of power since its independence from Britain in 1947.

Facing impeachment following the 2008 elections, Musharraf resigned as president and went into self-imposed exile in Dubai.

He is also on bail in three other cases linked to his time in power including the 2007 assassination of opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, and the 2006 murder of Baluch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Talat Masood, a retired general and analyst, said the ongoing confusion over what the government wished to do with Musharraf was reflective of internal divisions in Sharif's ruling PML-N party.

"If it was left to Nawaz Sharif, he would probably have Musharraf tried for treason," Masood said. "But the more pragmatic PML-N politicians are of the view it would be unwise to try Musharraf at this point in time, when so many things are happening and you need the military so badly to fight terrorism."

Pressure is mounting on Pakistan to strike the Taliban's headquarters in the North Waziristan tribal district following the all-night siege of Karachi airport that left 38 dead.

The assault was followed on Wednesday by the first US drone strikes on Pakistan this year, raising suspicion of coordination between the two countries after the programme was reportedly suspended to give Islamabad space to pursue talks with the Taliban, a process that now appears to be over.

Sharif's government in February had begun pursuing dialogue with the Pakistani Taliban aimed at ending a seven-year insurgency that has claimed thousands of lives. However, a ceasefire struck March broke down a month later. The army was widely seen as being opposed to the dialogue.

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