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Musharraf given a safe passage to return to Pakistan

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The Interior Ministry on Monday has granted former president General (Retd) Pervez Musharraf a safe passage to return to Pakistan in response to his appeal to be provided foolproof security. In the notification released by the Interior Ministry, Musharraf was offered security on his return to Pakistan but he had to submit his travel details to the ministry so that they can make arrangements on time.

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On Friday, the special court hearing a high treason case against Musharraf ordered the federal government to suspend his CNIC and passport. The Interior Ministry, on the other hand, granted him one week to surrender. In response to the court’s order, Musharraf’s counsel informed the court that the former president was ready to become a part of the proceedings if his security was guaranteed by the defense ministry.

The order was issued on 8th March but was made public on Friday. The court had also ordered the interior ministry to use the help of Interpol to extradite Musharraf. He was earlier declared an absconder/ proclaimed offender by the special court for his repeated absence on 11th May, 2016. Musharraf’s name was placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) because of impending cases in the court but was removed after Supreme Court (SC) order to remove it on 16th March 2016. He left soon after the order on 18th March 2016.

Musharraf needed his passport to come back to Pakistan so it was renewed.

-Ahsan Iqbal 

There are a number of on-going cases against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in Pakistani courts. It includes the Lal Masjid Operation 2007 case, Benazir Bhutto Murder case in an Anti-Terrorism Court (ATC) and a high treason case in a special court over the 2007 state of emergency. He has been declared a proclaimed offender in two of these cases: The Benazir murder case and the high treason case.

Interestingly, Musharraf’s diplomatic passport was renewed by the interior ministry on 5th January. It was due to expire on 16th March 2018 and most countries do not allow travel on passports which has a less than 6 month expiry date. The interior minister Ahsan Iqbal clarified that his passport was renewed due to fears that he might not return to the country, using his passport as an excuse. He needed his passport to come back to Pakistan so it was renewed.

History of General (retd) Pervez Musharraf

Musharraf rose to prominence in 1998 when he elevated to a four-star general by the then Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. He led the Kargil war fought against India and later launched a coup d’état against the government and took over. The general suspended the Constitution of Pakistan in 1999 and enforced the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO). He was later elected as the President of Pakistan in 2001 in a highly controversial referendum and reinstated a highly amended 1973 Constitution of Pakistan.

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The fall of Musharraf began after the 2007 Lawyers’ Movement which was initiated against the expulsion of the then Chief Justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry. On 3rd November 2007, Musharraf suspended the Constitution again and enforced the PCO on the country. The act of abrogating the constitution is treason in itself according to the Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

Musharraf’s life has been shrouded in controversy. His anticipated return to the country has sent shock waves throughout the nation. Due to his controversial past, most political parties are reluctant to ally themselves with him but he had launched a party of his own called the ‘All Pakistan Muslim League’ (APML) in 2010. 23 political parties joined hands on 10th November and formed the Pakistan Awami Ittehad (PAI). They elected General (retd) Pervez Musharraf to be their leader. The former President has expressed his desire to work with other parties, especially Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI).

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What will happen to Musharraf when he comes back?

Musharraf is wanted in multiple cases but the biggest one of them is the high treason case. Even though the Constitution of Pakistan allowed the President of Pakistan to impose an emergency back then, it was a contradiction of the Article 6 of the Constitution. The case will go down to technicalities since it is a matter of interpretation rather than a clear conviction. Political experts believe that Musharraf used his health as an excuse to escape from the country.

Read more: Islamabad High Court sets precedence asks to investigate Musharraf for corruption

He is left with little options but to return since if the government revokes his passport and uses the help of Interpol to bring him back, it would be very humiliating for the former ruler of the country. Another argument that media and political analysts raise is that Musharraf is the former head of the state and the army. If he is convicted as a traitor, it would reflect very badly on the army, the instituted that he headed. An institute that allows a traitor to rise to the top would have serious flaws in it so the acquittal of Musharraf is the only option that the government has.