Pakistan's Musharraf slips treason charges, but is held incommunicado

Pakistan's caretaker government has refused to bring treason charges against the detained former military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, saying it was beyond its mandate.

By , Staff writer

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    Pakistani former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrives at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday, April 20, 2013. The general who ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade before being forced to step down appeared on Saturday in front of the court in connection with charges linked to his 2007 sacking and detention of a number of judges.
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Today, Gen. Pervez Musharraf remains under arrest, confined to two rooms in his farmhouse, and the former military leader of Pakistan is still not allowed visits, say his lawyers.

Yet in what is likely good news for the former Army chief, the interim government of Pakistan today said it will not try Musharraf for treason, saying it does not have the power to do so and that elections, set for May 11, are a national priority.

“We cannot initiate proceedings against him [Musharraf] under Article 6 of the Constitution as we don’t have mandate to do so. Our mandate states that our first and foremost duty is to carry free and fair elections and provide security to the candidates,” the interim government said in its reply to the court regarding Musharraf’s treason case, according to the National Turk.

Recommended: How much do you know about Pakistan? Take this quiz.

The last week especially has been a trying one for Musharraf: He came out of self-imposed exile in March to “save Pakistan,” as he said, and run for high office. His bid fell flat among the public and then the official election commission barred his candidacy. Last week, Musharraf got an arrest order by a high court in Islamabad that said his attempt in 2007 to replace federal judges amounted to treason. But the former autocrat brushed aside court police and was escorted to his nearby country house by his security detail.

An arrest warrant for a former supreme military and civilian commander is unprecedented in Pakistan; pundits last week expressed astonishment even that the warrant was issued. But civilian legal authorities have continued to press, requiring the current caretaker government to intervene. 

Musharraf may still face a court battle over charges he was complicitous in two high-profile political assassinations, including that of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Musharraf has denied the charges and little evidence has come forth for them. 

Who is Musharraf?

Musharraf was a relatively popular leader in Pakistan when he took over. He was the wily general who outfoxed India in the high-altitude "Kargil war" in 1999, then thwarted an attempt by then-leader Nawaz Sharif to replace him, instead instigating a soft coup that put him in charge. Pakistan had just two years before become a nuclear state, having successfully tested a device a month after India did so.

Mr. Sharif, the head of a family dynasty in the Punjab area, later escaped Pakistan but also has returned and is now a front-runner in next month’s election, which purports to be the first civilian handover in Pakistan's history.

Musharraf established himself as a “chief executive” slightly removed from direct military control, and after 9/11 he cooperated with the United States in the war on terror in next-door Afghanistan. But after 9/11 his popularity and stature seemed to steadily erode at home, along with his power. He stepped down in 2007 and went into self-imposed exile as a kind of international figure and strategic thinker who often visited forums and think tanks in Washington and London. TO HERE

Why Musharraf felt he could in 2013 suddenly waltz back into the nation and pick up the reins of power again is a question causing puzzlement.

(Read more about Musharraf here)

'Fall from grace'

Al Jazeera this week describes Musharraf’s “spectacular fall from grace” and quotes retired Gen. Talat Masood:

I think he was living in a world of make-believe and … he was power-drunk and still has not been in touch with reality in Pakistan. He has a very poor following in Pakistan and at the moment I think the people in Pakistan are interested in the political process. They want new faces, they want the political parties to get strengthened and I think he [Musharraf] did not get this feedback from those people who were his supporters, if there were many.

The Mumbai-based daily newspaper dna points out today that:

In Pakistan only the state can initiate charges of treason, which can carry the death penalty.

Meanwhile, Musharraf's lawyers were not allowed to meet him today at his residence, which has been declared a sub-jail, despite an order issued by the Supreme Court.

Prison officials posted at Musharraf's five-acre farmhouse at Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad said the lawyers could meet their client only if they got a "no-objection certificate" from the Punjab government.

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