Musharraf: Free to leave the country?

Musharraf is not a free man yet. But if he is allowed to leave the country, will he come back?

Saifullah Sachwani November 10, 2013
After nearly six months of being in a sub-jail (read, residing comfortably in his Chak Shazad Farmhouse), former President and General (retired) Pervez Musharraf is finally free. His sub-jail was de-notified upon submission of merely two surety bonds of Rs100,000 each.

Many believe that much like his arrest, his release is part of a script. The arrest, notification of the farmhouse as a sub-jail and speedy justice delivered at the doorstep of the former president, is a deviation from the past actions and attitudes of the higher judiciary that gave no such concessions to the likes of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. However, there have been exceptions in history and leniency has been granted to politicians. One such example is former President Asif Ali Zardari, who was allowed an air-conditioner in his room in jail, which was upheld in the reported judgement of the Sindh High Court in PLD 1999 Karachi 162.

However, even that cannot be compared to the treatment that General Musharraf received. While the 'prison' treatment was special, the welcoming party of General Musharraf only consisted of a few dozen supporters, whereas those of Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan have always been in the tens of thousands. At the end of the day, it is those supporters that will make a difference.

This is the true beauty of democracy; something which is difficult for a usurper to fathom.

All the same, there seems to be a general misconception that General Musharraf is a free man, stemming from the statements made by his counsel, Mr Ilyas Siddiqui.

The former general is not free. At least, not until the courts adjudicate in his favour and free him of all charges and cases filed against him.

Yes, he is free to the extent that he can move freely within Pakistan, but he cannot travel outside Pakistan since his name has been placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) which is governed by the Exit from Pakistan (Control) Ordinance 1981, giving power to the federal government to place persons on this list without show-cause.

Although this restriction to travel outside Pakistan violates Articles 14 and 15 of the very constitution that was abrogated by the then General Musharraf, the same can be justified if it can be proven that it is in the public interest for his name to be placed on the Exit Control List.

Of course, many argue that the need of the hour is not incriminating General Musharraf or punishing him. Rather, it is solving the energy crises, the economic problems, the law and order situation and establishing the writ of the government in all of Pakistan by eliminating terrorism. As Barrister Ahmed Raza Kasur, senior member of General Musharraf’s political party reiterates time and time again,
“Riasat bachao, siasat nahi!”

(Save the state, not politics!)

Although there are many who agree with this and feel that the government should not allocate too much time thinking about General Musharraf; there are still some who believe that just as these problems must be fixed, General Musharraf’s case must also be dealt with, in the due process of law.

However, history shows that theory and practice do not always conform. Moreover, the statements of the government have been vague and diplomatic, to say the least. Although they continue to state that the due process of law should be followed, there seems to be no clarity regarding the fervour with which the government will pursue the cases and allegations filed against the former general.

One must appreciate that when General Musharraf successfully carried out the coup d'état of 1999, the current prime minister was taken to Adiala jail after being ousted, but eventually allowed to leave Pakistan and reside in exile in Saudi Arabia, despite the number of pending cases against him.

There has been news circulating for many weeks that General Musharraf’s mother has been ill and that he wishes to travel to Dubai to meet her.

If Prime Minister Sharif wants, he can allow Musharraf to travel abroad as he has the power to issue the notification to place a name on the Exit Control List. There have been many judgments in the past by the honourable high courts which have allowed others to travel outside Pakistan, despite their names being on the ECL.

Hence, if Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif decides to return the favour, General Musharraf will travel outside Pakistan. And then, there is no telling whether he will come back or not.
Saifullah Sachwani The author is a practicing lawyer based in Karachi. He tweets as @SaifullahFS (
The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necassarily reflect the views and policies of the Express Tribune.


Syed | 10 years ago | Reply The writer seems to be highly confused, jumping from one corner to other. Taking his his last point, if allowed to travel abroad, wiould Musharraf come back or not? Why should such intelligent questions be formulated? Did he not returned from abroad and presented himself for judicial trial, an unprecedented act in your whole history? What could you, the fraud degree politicians and judges, do to him despite his open offer to try your bit? Which CJ, may he be twice PCO before becoming "Azad", instigated people through daily news papers to make cases against Musharraf? Dear Saifullah, we are the nation which is known for slapping our fathers, as we grow up and get on our own. You are doing exactly the same, to please some of your high up to get a job as you complete your Law Degree and I know how to get that degree. Musharraf era was the best period Pakistan had after Ayub Khan's government. Everything was moving forward, economy, agriculture, industries, education. He had booted out the Indians in Kargil and kept Hindus at arms distance. He sincerely conducted election and handed over the government to Jamhuras. He was the one, who gave freedom to the Media. He really wanted democracy to flourish. PCO CJ was made responsible for his cheatings and fraud done in the case of his daughter and son. Pakistan was out of IMF clutches. Pakistan was respected internationally. Our students were making way to International institutions. Bank were reaching common man's house and offering loans for purchase of houses or vehicles. You are humiliating Musharraf and laughing, but Indians are enjoying it more than you and further the whole world is laughing at you, the so called PAKISTANIS.
Vikram | 10 years ago | Reply Read what Hamid Gul says about Musharraf.
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