Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf made history on Friday as he arrived at the Sindh High Court (SHC) to extend his period of bail in a series of cases, including the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.
Musharraf, who returned home after four years of self-imposed exile on Sunday, became the first former army chief or president in Pakistan’s history to surrender himself to the court – a move which also helped him win the SHC’s trust, which granted him transitory and protective pre-arrest bail.
However, it wasn’t all rosy for the ex-dictator, who remains hugely controversial nearly five years after he stepped down in the face of impeachment proceedings. As Musharraf walked to the courtroom on Friday, a shoe was thrown at him by one of the protesting lawyers.
“He’s a dictator and he should be hanged” chanted the protesters before one of them hurled the shoe. The shoe did not hit Musharraf, TV footage showed, and the perpetrator was taken away swiftly by security officials. This is the second time Musharraf has had a shoe thrown at him, the first being in February 2011, when he was attending a gathering in London. Apart from Musharraf, Iranian President Ahmadinejad, former US president George Bush, Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh and many others have also been attacked by footwear of various sorts.
Be that as it may, the emotionally charged lawyer, who threw the shoe at Musharraf, felt content about his actions despite missing his target.
“I’m happy for what I’ve done,” Advocate Tajammul Lodhi told The Express Tribune, adding that his mother had wept incessantly on May 12, 2007, referring to the mayhem that engulfed Karachi resulting in the death of nearly 50 people.
Last week, the court had granted the former president temporary protective bail before he flew back to Pakistan. The decision prevented Musharraf from being arrested for 10 days in connection with the judges’ arrests and for 14 days over the two other cases.
On Friday, the court extended Musharraf’s bail in the judges’ case for another two weeks, while the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) leader was also granted a 21-day extension in the Bhutto assassination and Nawab Akbar Bugti case.
The court, however, ordered him not to leave the country without seeking prior permission of the concerned courts.
Musharraf’s counsel, Advocate Abdul Qadir Halepota argued on Friday that his client deserved ‘mercy’ in form of a bail extension, which would enable him to appear before the courts and defend himself.
“This is the first time in the history of this country that a person, who has remained a four-star general in the Pakistan Army and the president of this country, has returned to Pakistan only to face charges in various courts of law,” said Halepota, while pleading for transitory bail for five weeks.
On the other hand, Sindh Advocate General Shahadat Awan argued that the former military ruler was not entitled to such a concession since he had been declared a fugitive. However, Additional Advocate General Adnan Karim Memon contended that the court had the jurisdiction to grant protection to an accused in case in which pre-arrest bail is sought.
The former president’s lawyer had also requested another SHC bench, headed by Judge Sajjad Ali Shah, to grant his client transitory bail so he could surrender before anti-terrorism courts in Rawalpindi and Dera Bugti.
On Friday, Justice Shah granted a 21-day extension to Musharraf to appear and surrender before the trial courts with the condition that he would not leave the country without permission from the trial courts.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 30th, 2013.