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Musharraf flees Pakistan after travel ban is lifted

DUBAI: In this Sunday, March 24, 2013 file photo, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reacts while arriving at his office for a press briefing before leaving to Karachi. — AP
DUBAI: In this Sunday, March 24, 2013 file photo, former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf reacts while arriving at his office for a press briefing before leaving to Karachi. — AP

KARACHI: Pakistan’s former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, who faces charges of treason and murder, arrived in Dubai yesterday after a three-year travel ban was lifted, allowing him to receive urgent medical care, his lawyers said. Lawyers for the former president, who is facing multiple charges including treason and murder over the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, have said he needs urgent medical treatment not available in Pakistan.

“I am going abroad for treatment but will return to face the cases against me,” a party spokesman in Karachi quoted him as saying. “I am a commando. I love my motherland.” The spokesman added that Musharraf had reached his Dubai residence, where he will stay for some weeks before seeking an appointment with doctors in the United States. “Six to eight weeks are required for the treatment and then he would go back home,” said Dr Amjad Malik, a spokesman for Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League party in Dubai.

Ill-fated mission
Musharraf was banned from leaving Pakistan in March 2013 after he returned to the country on an ill-fated mission to contest elections. The former ruler was barred from taking part in the polls and instead faces a barrage of legal cases. Last June, the Sindh High Court lifted Musharraf’s travel ban, but the federal government, headed by his long-time rival Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, appealed the verdict. The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld the Sindh High Court decision and ordered the government to allow Musharraf to travel, which it did the following day.

Musharraf’s lawyers have provided guarantees he will return to Pakistan in six weeks and pledged he will appear in court for several ongoing cases against him, Pakistan’s interior minister, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, said Thursday. However, analyst Hasan Askari said yesterday the chance of Musharraf coming back was “minimal”, adding that his return could cause problems for the government and embarrass the military.

“In order to defuse the conflict, the government agreed to let him go,” he said. In January, Musharraf was acquitted over the 2006 killing of a Baloch rebel leader Nawab Akbar Bugti. But four cases against him remain-one accusing him of treason for imposing emergency rule, as well as those alleging the unlawful dismissal of judges, the assassination of opposition leader Bhutto and a deadly raid on Islamabad’s radical Red Mosque.

Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of her Pakistan People’s Party, vowed to launch country-wide protests against the government for allowing Musharraf to travel. “After facilitating Musharraf’s escape this government has lost the moral authority to govern,” he tweeted yesterday.

Police decoy
A large convoy of police and paramilitary rangers left Musharraf’s home in Karachi around 3.30 am yesterday as a decoy to waiting media crowding his street, while the general travelled to the airport separately. Musharraf ousted Sharif from power in 1999 in a bloodless coup and ruled Pakistan until democracy was restored in 2008. He has been under house arrest in Karachi while the cases have ground through Pakistan’s notoriously slow legal system, lurching from adjournment to adjournment with little clear progress apart from the granting of bail. Analysts had previously said they believe the government lacks the will to offend Pakistan’s powerful military by pushing for Musharraf’s prosecution. — AFP

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