Former Pakistani military leader Pervez Musharraf was arrested in Islamabad today, a day after fleeing a court where judges had revoked a bail agreement on charges relating to his 2007 declaration of emergency rule.
Pakistan’s Geo network and other channels broadcast footage of Musharraf, clad in a loose shirt and baggy trousers, entering a judicial magistrate’s office this morning surrounded by police. Musharraf is in police custody and has 48 hours from the time he turned himself in to appear before a judge, his lawyer Qamar Afzal said by phone.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March after four years in self-imposed exile in a bid for a political comeback in May 11 elections. While his arrest may exacerbate tensions between the army and the judiciary, public pressure to put him on trial may force military leaders to remain silent, Islamabad-based analyst Talat Masood said.
“This outcome is probably acceptable for the army, which is in an awkward situation,” said Masood, a retired general. “If the army tries to protect him in any way, they will be heavily criticized.”
Musharraf faces multiple court cases, including possible treason charges for subverting the constitution with his emergency decree after which he placed top judges under house arrest. He fled the court yesterday in a black SUV protected by his bodyguards.
An election tribunal this week rejected his bid to run for a parliamentary seat in the election. The risk of unrest over Musharraf’s arrest is low because his All Pakistan Muslim League doesn’t have the popularity to organize major protests, Masood said.
“Why am I being stopped from taking part in politics,” Musharraf said in a video message posted yesterday on his Facebook page. “Is it because I gave Pakistan hope, security and progress?”
Former premier Nawaz Sharif, who was overthrown by Musharraf in a bloodless coup in 1999, was preferred by 37 percent in a Gallup analysis of two opinion polls last month. That’s more than double the 16 percent garnered by the Peoples Party. The Sharif stronghold of Punjab province sends more than half of 272 directly elected lower-house lawmakers to parliament.