ISLAMABAD – Police arrested former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf overnight at his home in the capital, where he had holed up following a dramatic escape from court to avoid being detained, officials said today.
Musharraf fled Islamabad High Court in a speeding vehicle Thursday morning after a judge rejected his bail and ordered his arrest in connection with a case involving his decision to fire senior judges while in power. It was a new low in Musharraf’s troubled return from self-imposed exile last month to make a political comeback in the upcoming parliamentary election.
Police arrested Musharraf overnight and presented him before a judge at Islamabad District Court this morning, said police officer Mohammed Khalid. Local TV footage showed Musharraf entering district court in Islamabad amid a heavy security detachment of police and paramilitary soldiers.
The district court judge instructed police to keep Musharraf in their custody for two days and then present him before an anti-terrorism court, said one of his lawyers, Malik Qamar Afzal.
Officials have declared Musharraf’s home on the outskirts of Islamabad a jail, which is allowed under the country’s law, and he will be held there under house arrest, said police officer Mohammed Rafique.
Musharraf’s legal team has said it will challenge the arrest order in the Supreme Court today.
The decision by the police to arrest Musharraf ended an awkward situation in which the former military ruler was being protected by security forces while holed up in his house but none of them made a move to detain him. They were likely awaiting orders from senior officials trying to figure out how to deal with a delicate situation.
Pakistan’s government has been reluctant to wade into the controversy surrounding Musharraf since he returned from self-imposed exile last month, especially given his position as a former chief of the army, considered the most powerful institution in the country.
His return also presents complications for the current army chief, Gen. Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who may have to decide whether to intervene to protect Musharraf or watch him be prosecuted. If Musharraf is sent to prison, it would be the first time an army chief has been put behind bars in the country’s 65-year history.