A close aide to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf has claimed that travel restrictions on the former military ruler were lifted as a result of an ‘off-shore deal’ struck with the government.
The claim by Ahmad Raza Kasuri, the chief coordinator of the All Pakistan Muslim League (AMPL), negates the government’s version that Musharraf’s name was struck off the Exit Control List (ECL) in compliance with the Supreme Court orders.
Musharraf is facing a slew of court cases on different charges, including high treason for subverting the Constitution in 2007. He flew to Dubai Thursday morning after the government lifted international travel restrictions on him. A day earlier, the top court directed the government to remove Musharraf’s name from the ECL.
“At 2.00 am on Thursday, my phone rang. It was General Sahib [Musharraf] on the line. General Sahib took me into confidence and shared details of the agreement [struck with the government] before his departure,” Kasuri told The Express Tribune.
As a first step towards its implementation, Attorney General for Pakistan Salman Aslam Butt did not argue against the Supreme Court order for lifting travel restrictions on Musharraf, according to Kasuri. The agreement also envisages the government will wrap up the treason trial, he said. “I will disclose contents of the deal at an appropriate time,” said Kasuri when pressed for details.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said on Thursday that the government removed Musharraf’s name from the ECL in compliance with the Supreme Court orders. “He [Musharraf] has been allowed to travel abroad for medical treatment. His lawyers have committed before the apex court that he will return after four to six weeks,” Nisar told the media.
Musharraf’s name was put on the ECL after he returned to Pakistan in 2013, hoping to lead his party in 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 from 1999 to 2008.
A senior government official said the three-judge special court trying Musharraf for treason would continue proceedings in absentia. The court has already indicted Musharraf, and there is no need for his presence in the court anymore, he added. “The special court can record his statement through a video link, if he reneges on his commitment to come back.”
Senator Farogh Nasim, who is Musharraf’s lead counsel in the treason trial, refused to comment on this issue. However, Kasuri ruled out ‘trial in absentia’. “This cannot be a viable option in such high-profile cases,” he said.
Punjab Law Minister Rana Sanaullah has said that if the court issues Musharraf’s arrest warrants, then he would be brought back through Interpol. “The court has not ordered putting Musharraf’s name on the ECL in any case,” he said.
The special court indicted Musharraf in 2014 for promulgating emergency and suspending the Constitution before sacking top judges, including the then chief justice of Pakistan. According to Article 6 of the Constitution, Musharraf can be sentenced to death or life in prison if he is convicted of treason.
Meanwhile, Pakistan Peoples Party supporters staged ‘Go Nawaz Go’ rallies in several cities of Sindh on Saturday to protest the government decision to strike Musharraf’s name off the ECL.
“The federal government is passing the buck to the judiciary for allowing Musharraf to go abroad,” said provincial information adviser Maula Bux Chandio, who led a rally in Hyderabad. “This is contemptuous for a constitutional institution [such as the judiciary].”
He blamed the PML-N government for lifting international travel restrictions on Musharraf. “It seems the honeymoon period of the Nawaz government is over now,” said Chandio. “Earlier it was powerless but now it has become restless.”
PPP lawmakers will also protest the government decision during a Sindh Assembly session on Monday. Sources said the PPP may move a resolution in the assembly against the government’s decision. In this connection, a parliamentary party meeting has been convened at the Chief Minister House on Sunday to devise a plan.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 20th, 2016.