Final reprieve: Musharraf free to fly away

Published: March 18, 2016
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Interior Minister addressing a press conference at Punjab House. PHOTO: APP

Interior Minister addressing a press conference at Punjab House. PHOTO: APP

ISLAMABAD: 

Former military ruler and president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf is likely to fly to Dubai from Karachi at 4am after the government agreed to strike his name off the no-fly list. A day earlier, the top court declared the ex-president could travel abroad.

“The government has decided to allow Musharraf to travel abroad for medical treatment. He [Musharraf] has also committed that he will face all cases against him in court,” the interior minister announced on Thursday at a news conference.

Chaudhry Nisar said the government was removing the retired general’s name from the Exit Control List (ECL) under the directives of the Supreme Court.

The former president’s lawyers have committed before the apex court that he will return to the country after four to six weeks, he added.

On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected the federal government’s two-year-old appeal against the Sindh High Court’s decision to remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL.

The former president reserved a seat with a foreign airline at 4:30am Thursday but the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) intervened, saying he would not be allowed to travel unless the government removed his name from the no-fly list. The booking had to be cancelled.

“Today his lawyers moved a proper application for removing his name from the ECL, after which the government decided to allow him to go abroad for treatment following the apex court judgment,” Nisar said at the media briefing.

The minister added the detailed judgment on this case was not received but the decision to remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL was taken as per the apex court’s ruling.

Nisar said every decision had some motives but there was no confusion regarding the case against the former military ruler.

Without taking its name, the interior minister criticised the Pakistan Peoples Party for censuring the government like if the government would lose the right to govern if Musharraf was allowed to go abroad.

“What did they do during their five-year tenure despite booking Musharraf over Benazir Bhutto’s murder?” Nisar questioned. “We initiated the treason case against him and opposed every move for removing his name from the ECL. Everyone including the government has to follow the verdict of Supreme Court.”

If the government, he added, is willing to allow Musharraf to travel abroad, it would not have filed appeals against the judgment of first the lower court and then the high court orders.

He also brushed aside speculation of any clandestine deals behind the decision to allow Musharraf to leave the country.

“The prime minister has no personal grudges against Musharraf and he has pardoned him for whatever he did with him,” Nisar clarified.

He added the government now did not put anyone’s name on the no-fly list. The powers have been delegated to the National Accountability Bureau, FIA and the defence headquarters.

Meanwhile, another court on Thursday sought explanations from the interior ministry and the Islamabad police chief over the failure of Musharraf to appear before the court in the Abdul Rashid Ghazi murder case.

The district and sessions court issued notices for April 2 on an application seeking directions for the respondents to alert all airports not to allow Musharraf’s departure as non-bailable arrest warrants had been issued against the former army chief.

Musharraf’s name was put on the ECL after he returned to Pakistan in 2013, hoping to lead his party into the general elections.

He was, however, disqualified from contesting the polls and found himself fighting an array of charges relating to his time in power.

Musharraf was the army chief when he seized power in a coup in 1999. He was the president till 2008 when a democratically elected government came into power and ousted him. He left the country to live in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

The charges relate to the former general’s imposition of a state of emergency in November 2007 and the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto the same year. Musharraf, 72, denies all the charges and has termed them “politically motivated”.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2016.

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