Former military dictator Pervez Musharraf turned into a fugitive on Thursday as he fled from the Islamabad High Court after it cancelled his bail in the judges’ detention case. Not only did he manage to leave the court room with the help of his security detail -- including commandos from Pakistan Rangers — but also made his way back to his farmhouse on the outskirts of the federal Capital with full escort.
The court described the detention of 60 judges, including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, as an “act of terrorism” that could attract life imprisonment, and declared General (retired) Musharraf a “proclaimed offender.”
The order also took note of the escape, and said his fleeing and the part played by his security guards in whisking him away were an offence.
Till late in the evening, no formal arrest had been made though a police cordon was thrown around his highly-secured farmhouse, raising speculation about the possibility of a house arrest by turning the premises into a sub-jail. The former Army Chief remained closeted inside his farmhouse for the entire day. His lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri said he was in good spirits, meeting people, drinking coffee and smoking cigars.
In the afternoon, Gen. Musharraf’s lawyers approached the Supreme Court to get protective bail to avoid arrest but their application was not entertained. Chief coordinator of the All Pakistan Muslim League, Muhammad Amjad, told media persons later that the lawyers were instructed to return on Friday morning with their application and order copy.
The failure of the caretaker administration to abide by the court order and arrest Gen. Musharraf came in for all-round criticism with some parties describing it as contempt of court while others saw the “invisible hand of the much-feared establishment” in his escape. As of now, he cannot leave the country as he was placed on the Exit Control List within a week of his return from self-exile on March 24.