Former President Musharraf of Pakistan Charged with Illegal Detention of Judges

Islamabad, Pakistan- Pakistan’s Supreme Court has ruled Tuesday that former President Pervez Musharraf acted illegally in detaining and dismissal of judges in 2007 during Pakistan’s political crisis and now faced arrest if he returns from exile.

Musharraf, who now lives in London, could face up to three years in prison if he is convicted. This charge against him is the latest setback and although he could post bail if arrested, many analysts doubt that he would come back to face the charges.  The Supreme Court, led by Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry, one of the 60 judges sacked by Musharraf during the national state of emergency, concluded that Musharraf violated the constitution when he dismissed the judges and now is charged with violating the constitution.

Musharraf’s actions at the time were widely seen as an attempt by him from preventing the Supreme Court from declaring him ineligible to holding the posts of president and head of the army at the same time.  He ordered the detention of 60 judges including Chief Justice Chaudhry at their homes, a move that is now seen as being illegal by the courts and the Islamabad police.“He is formally charged now,” said Hakim Khan, a police official in Islamabad, the Pakistani capital. “If he comes to Pakistan, he can be arrested.”

Experts are further stating that this ruling also opens the door for Musharraf to be charged with possible treason, a crime that is punishable with a death penalty. The Supreme Court has left it up to the Pakistani parliament to decide whether to pursue the charge against Musharraf.

The two main political parties in power in Pakistan are split on whether to pursue a charge of treason against Musharraf.  The party of President Asif Ali Zardari, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) has not shown much interest in pursuing a treason case against the former president. The opposition party of the former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Pakistan Muslim League-N party (PML-N) wants to have charges of treason brought against Musharraf.

Musharraf’s harsh dictatorial rule along with his actions against the lawyers and judges in 2007 led to a grass roots movement of lawyers that became crucial in forcing Musharraf to give up his role as the army chief and then eventually drove him out of office as the president also leading to elections won by the widow of Benazir Bhutto, Asif Ali Zardari.

Musharraf was wrong in dismissing the judiciary and in curtailing many institutions of Pakistan that seemed to be a danger to his rule. He had come to power in a bloodless coup that was supported by many people of Pakistan as he went up against a corrupt and ineffective administration of then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He did make some positive changes in the country including backing the US war on terror after September 11 attacks and stepping up and bringing pressure on the Taliban in the country which to that point Pakistan had supported in neighboring Afghanistan.  However, he undoubtedly made the biggest mistake of all when he took on the judicial branch of the government and decided to dismiss anyone who disagreed with him or seemed to be a threat to his power.  Now it seems that this ruling will prevent him from coming to Pakistan as he at the very least faces three years for breaking the constitution and possibly the death penalty if charges of treason are brought against him.

Reporting by Manzer Munir for

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