For an entire day, former Pakistan president and military dictator, General Pervez Musharraf, was a free man. Musharraf’s lawyer said he was ‘free to move’ after being granted bail by the supreme court of his country in the murder case of Nawab Akbar Bugtii, a nationalist leader from the province of Balochistan. However, that freedom was short-lived and within hours, the former president was back under house arrest.
Soon after returning to his home country in April after self-imposed exile, Musharraf was confined to the four walls of his villa near the capital Islamabad. The former general had been implicated in a number of cases including the murder of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, the killing of Akbar Bugti and the illegal detention of superior court judges after he declared emergency November 3, 2007.
However, he was granted bail in all three cases. His lawyer Ibrahim Satti said a three-member Supreme Court bench had granted bail in the Bugti case in return for surety bonds worth two million Pakistani rupees. Qamar Afzal, another counsel for Musharraf, claimed that bail was granted due to the lack of evidence.
The chief of more than 200,000 tribesmen, Bugti and around 35 of his followers were killed when the Pakistan Air Force bombed their hideout in the Bambore mountain range of the Marri tribal area. Many in Balochistan saw the Nawab as a hero who fought for greater provincial autonomy rather than a renegade as portrayed by the Pakistani government of the time.
Just before the sub-jail status of Musharraf’s residence was about to be lifted; it was reinstated again and the former general rearrested.
This time it was the ‘murder’ case of Abdul Rahid Ghazi, one of the two leaders of the Jamia Hafsa and Jamia Faridia seminaries of the Lal Masjid (Red Mosque) in Islamabad, that came back to haunt him.
A spokesman for Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party confirmed the arrest. “Yes, police have officially put him under house arrest. We will file his bail application soon,” the secretary general of APML told AFP.
The Lal Masjid operation, ordered by the military dictator, was one of the most controversial actions during his reign. It resulted in an eight-day siege at the Taliban-supported mosque and caused the death of 58 Pakistani soldiers and seminary students.
Before this latest development, Musharraf was supposedly planning to leave the country after getting bail in the other three cases and with good reason. Not only is the military dictator considered an enemy by the Nawaz Sharif-led government and the judiciary, but has long been on the hit list of the Taliban. Just before his return earlier this year, Tehreek-e-Taliban spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan vowed to send a ‘death squad’ after him. He also faces a threat to his life from Baloch nationalists, who hold the former president responsible for the killing of Akbar Bugti.
Musharraf has only himself to blame for his current predicament. After all, it is he who chose to return to Pakistan to contest the general elections and face the charges leveled against him. However, he was unable to stand for the polls as his candidacy was rejected by the Election Commission of Pakistan (ECP). The jury is still out over whether the decision to come back was brave or foolish.