Yesterday, I wrote a short piece in the Green Room about the strange comeback attempt of Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. Despite facing potential charges of treason and corruption from his years as dictatorial ruler, Musharraf returned to Pakistan under an advance-bail arrangement allowed in their legal system. Today, Musharraf and his legal team tried to arrange that bail permanently, and got a large — and unpleasant — surprise:
Pervez Musharraf, the one-time Pakistani military ruler who said he was not afraid to face jail when he returned to his homeland last month, raced away from court with his security detail Thursday after a judge ordered his arrest in a treason case against him.
Local broadcast footage captured scenes of Musharraf taking flight in a black SUV with a member of his detail perched on the bulletproof vehicle’s side. The dramatic turn represented yet another blow for the former president, who went into self-exile in 2008 facing impeachment for increasingly autocratic efforts to remain in power.
The Islamabad High Court revoked Musharraf’s bail Thursday in a case focused on Musharraf’s suspension of the constitution and declaration of a state of emergency in November 2007, an ultimately futile effort to staunch rising opposition to his nine-year rule. He sacked judges, ordered political foes arrested, and put the chief justice of the Supreme Court under house arrest.
In earlier rulings, the court said those actions amounted to treason and declared Musharraf an offender subject to arrest if he came back to Pakistan.
Musharraf, who returned last month to launch what many analysts called a hopeless and ill-advised bid to become prime minister, has met a tepid and sometimes hostile reception from voters. And his campaign hopes were torpedoed earlier this week when a top court in northwestern Pakistan barred him from running for the only parliamentary seat that he stood a chance of winning.
CNN has footage of Mr. Musharraf’s wild ride, noting that he got assistance in escaping from court not just from his own security team, but also from government troops stationed at the courthouse. Nic Robertson wonders whether that may give Musharraf some hope of prevailing at the Supreme Court, but considering his track record there, I’d doubt it:
Musharraf is back on his compound outside of Islamabad, but without the bail in place, one has to wonder for how long. As I noted yesterday, there seems to be a peculiarity among deposed strongmen that compels them to return to seek popular absolution and a return to power, such as the case of Jean-Claude “Baby Doc” Duvalier. If Musharraf is wise, he’d be looking at exit strategies and retirement villas, but then again, a wise man wouldn’t have come back in the first place.