Musharraf to face courts if he returns

March 03, 2013 - 4:07:07 am

ISLAMABAD: As former military dictator Pervez Musharraf prepares to come good on his pledge to return to Pakistan ahead of parliamentary elections, a string of cases await the ex-army chief.

Besides the security issue relating to his unconditional alliance with the United States in the war against terror and pending court cases in connection with the Lal Masjid operation, the former president can be arrested for the murder of two political heavyweights: former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Baloch tribal chieftain Akbar Bugti.

Arrest warrants have been issued against Musharraf in connection with the two murder cases.

Musharraf was at the helm of affairs when Bugti was slain during a military operation in 2006. Since then, peace has not returned to the restive province. A court in Balochistan issued arrest warrants for the military ruler in the Bugti murder case.

Barely a year after Bugti’s death, the twice elected prime minister Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in the garrison city of Rawalpindi. In 2011, during a trial of the Benazir murder case, a Rawalpindi Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) declared Musharraf a proclaimed offender.

Musharraf’s bank accounts were frozen and his property was attached on the court’s orders. His spouse Sehba Musharraf’s application against the court’s order is yet to be entertained. Sehba said since her husband had gifted their farmhouse in Islamabad to her, the court had illegally ordered its confiscation. She also said in her application that the money in their bank accounts was reserved for the welfare of the general population, hence the accounts could not be frozen.

After toppling the Nawaz Sharif-led government in 1999, Musharraf got himself elected as the president of Pakistan in an army uniform and stepped down from office in 2008. Since then, Musharraf has been in a self-imposed exile and the cases in which he is an accused are being pursued in several courts in the country. Musharraf is now chairman of his own political party, All Pakistan Muslim League. In the past, he has said that he would contest elections from Chitral.

Though Musharraf has pledged to return to Pakistan a week after the interim government is installed, he will have to face the independent judiciary for legal recourse. He twice deposed Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Chaudhry, who was reinstated as the result of a lawyers’ movement.

Article 6 of Pakistan’s constitution, dealing with treason, can be invoked against Musharraf for unconstitutionally imposing martial law — despite the apex court’s restraining order — and sacking judges of the Supreme Court, including the chief justice. Musharraf’s unconstitutional move was thereby termed ‘Emergency Plus’.

Recently, a commission investigating the Lal Masjid incident issued a notice to Musharraf asking him to appear before it. However, he refused to abide by the notice.