Earlier today General Pervez Musharraf, who led Pakistan for nearly a decade following a military coup in 1999, fled a court in Islamabad after judges cancelled his bail and ordered his arrest. The man who crowned himself president in 2001 is now a fugitive from justice.
Musharraf and Pakistan’s courts share a troubled history. In 2007, he suspended the chief justice, Iftikhar Chaudhry, leading to nationwide protests by lawyers. Courts reinstated Chaudhry and removed the president’s powers to suspend judges. Later that year the general imposed a state of emergency and fired Chaudhry again, this time getting the army to arrest him as well as several other judges. Musharraf’s current travails stem from that period: Pakistan’s judges have never forgiven him for treading on their autonomy. They are now looking into whether his actions amounted to treason
This is a staggering fall from grace for the one-time dictator. After being forced out in 2008, Musharraf spent almost five years in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London. He returned to Pakistan last month hoping to run for a seat in parliament in general elections on May 11. It is the first time in the troubled nation’s history that a democratically elected government has been allowed to finish a full term and hold fresh elections without the army getting involved. The general probably hoped for a glorious homecoming. Instead, he was disqualified from running while courts want to try him for everything from the 2007 emergency to Benazir Bhutto’s assassination, in which he is accused of not ensuring her safety.
Musharraf, who was granted preemptive bail before he arrived in Pakistan, went to court this morning to seek an extension on his bail. Instead, he found himself fleeing into his SUV and out of the court complex despite the presence of a phalanx of security personnel and irate lawyers.
His people told the BBC that he is “a little upset” at the way things turned out, promising to launch an appeal at the Supreme Court later today. Musharraf says he will surrender to authorities if he loses the appeal. But don’t be surprised if the next you hear of the once mighty ruler of Pakistan is from a safe house in Dubai.