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Former Pakistani president Musharraf arrested after fleeing courtroom

By Catholic Online (NEWS CONSORTIUM)
April 19th, 2013
Catholic Online (www.catholic.org)

The latest in a long series of humiliations that have met former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf since his return to his homeland has been his arrest by police officers. Escorted from his luxury home on the outskirts of Islamabad, Musharraf was arrested after a judge's ruling he be tried on terrorism charges.

LOS ANGELES, CA (Catholic Online) - Musharraf was remanded in custody for two days while police investigate charges that his firing of top judges towards the end of his eight-year rule in 2007 amounted to terrorism. A judge ruled that he should be held under house arrest.

In an especially embarrassing incident that preceded his arrest, Musharraf fled the courtroom when a high court judge refused to extend the "pre-arrest bail." After just a couple of hours of home detention, he was taken into police custody for two days.

Musharraf took to Facebook to decry the charges against him. "These allegations are politically motivated and I will fight them in the trial court, where the truth will eventually prevail," he said.

Musharraf has long worn out his welcome in Pakistan. The onetime fierce military leader burned many bridges with his dismissal of judges in 2007, one of whom was chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, who Musharraf feared would challenge his re-election as president.

Judge Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui ruled that confining judges to house arrest was an "act of terrorism," and that Musharraf had "spread fear in the society, insecurity among the judicial officers, alarm in the lawyers' community and terror throughout Pakistan."

Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 before being harried out of the country in 2008 by his opponents. Among many other charges, he is accused of conspiring to assassinate former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.

Some analysts feel he will ultimately be able to defend himself against the charges. More serious would be if he was accused of treason for imposing emergency law, a charge that can carry the death sentence. Only parliament can press treason charges; so far it has been reluctant to do so.

Some political figures have expressed irritation that Musharraf was allowed to flee in the first place. Election frontrunner Nawaz Sharif said that the police had been in contempt of court by letting Musharraf flee without being arrested on Thursday.

"If any common man would have done what Musharraf did, then he would've surely been behind bars right now," Sharif said. "Why was he escorted home safely by Islamabad police? Because he was an army chief earlier?"

Musharraf returned from his self-imposed exile in Dubai last month with the announcement that he was going to "save" Pakistan. He seemed genuinely unaware that his political support in the country has largely evaporated since he left in 2008.

He has received scant support from the public or any of the leading political parties in his attempt to get elected in next month's historic polls.

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