Pakistan police book Musharraf, say officials

Pakistan on Tuesday registered a criminal case against Pervez Musharraf, a precursor to potentially putting the ex-president on trial over his 2007 detention of judges as he attempted to cling to power.

Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and sacked about 60 judges on November 3 2007 when the Supreme Court appeared poised to declare him ineligible to contest a presidential election while in military uniform.

On a plea filed by lawyer Mohammad Aslam Ghuman, Islamabad district and sessions judge Mohammad Akmal directed police to register a case against Musharraf, who is currently in Europe.

“We have registered a case against Pervez Musharraf under Pakistan’s Penal Code,” Hakim Khan, the chief officer of the relevant police station, told Agence France-Presse.

The registration of the case will now see police investigate the charges levelled against the former head of state, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

“It is a criminal case,” another police official told AFP.

Tuesday’s move comes just weeks after a 14-member bench led by Supreme Court Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry last month declared Musharraf’s acts illegal when he dismissed top judges and ordered their detention.

In his order, Akmal directed the Islamabad city police chief to “fulfill his statutory obligation by recording the petitioner’s statement … and proceed further in according with law.”

According to a copy of the order obtained by Agence France-Presse, the judge also ordered a “fair investigation of the case”.

Prosecuting lawyer Ghuman said he would make efforts through the courts to force the former president to return to Pakistan, where he could face up to three years in jail if found guilty.

“Musharraf has committed serious crimes. We will try to get him back through court,” he told Agence France-Presse by telephone.

“I requested the court to order police to register a case against Musharraf for illegally detaining 60 judges,” he said. The judges were put under house arrest.

Mohammad Ali Saif, a former Cabinet minister turned Musharraf legal adviser, lashed out at the political opposition for registering the case.

“This is a political campaign against Musharraf, this a part of his character assassination,” he said.

“There is no reality in these accusations, we don’t accept it, a lobby funded by Nawaz Sharif is behind all this drama,” he said suggesting that it might be wiser for Musharraf not to return to Pakistan in such circumstances.

Former premier Sharif is today Pakistan’s most popular politician, but during Musharraf’s rule was convicted of “hijacking” a plane carrying the military leader because he denied it landing rights in the throes of the 1999 coup.

Saif said Musharraf was currently on a lecture tour of Europe and the United States, and would be busy until later this year.

Musharraf was replaced last year as president by Asif Ali Zardari, widower of murdered former premier Benazir Bhutto, after his party won elections.

In March, Zardari reinstated Chaudhry and his fellow judges following a protracted political crisis.

A spokesperson for the Pakistan Muslim League-N party, headed by Sharif, welcomed Tuesday’s case registration but called for Musharraf to face trial for high treason.

“We will also appeal to all UN member states not to give him political asylum. He has committed high treason and does not deserve any asylum,” Siddiqul Farooq said. — AFP

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