Court backs Musharraf’s bid to leave Pakistan


In this Monday, April 15, 2013 photo, Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf addresses his party supporters at his house in Islamabad, Pakistan. A Pakistani court on Thursday struck down a government order barring the former military ruler, who faces treason charges, from leaving the country. (B.K. Bangash/AP)
June 12

A Pakistani court in Karachi ordered the removal of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf from the Exit Control List on Thursday, a move that lifts a ban against his travel abroad.

The court gave the government 15 days to appeal the decision in the country’s Supreme Court, said Musharraf’s lawyer, Farogh Naseem. There was no immediate reaction from the government.

“The court has ordered the government to lift the ban imposed on . . . Musharraf’s travel and asked for the removal of his name from ECL,” Naseem told reporters.

“The court’s ruling has proved that the cases registered against General Musharraf were politically motivated,” he said. Naseem said Musharraf would return to Pakistan after his travel abroad to face the cases against him.

Pakistan’s former military ruler has said he wants to visit his ailing mother, who is hospitalized in Dubai, but could not do so because of the travel ban. He flew to Karachi from Islamabad in April for medical tests and treatment.

A Pakistani court backs former military ruler Pervez Musharraf's request to leave the country. Musharraf is currently on trial for treason and could possibly avoid charges if he travels. (Reuters)

He was indicted in March by a court in the Pakistani capital on treason charges. Prosecutors accused Musharraf, 70, of subverting the constitution, illegally imposing emergency rule in 2007 and removing the country’s chief justice. If convicted, Musharraf faces a possibly death penalty or life imprisonment.

Pakistan has been long dominated by the country’s powerful military, and Musharraf’s case is seen here as a test for the supremacy of civilian rule.

Musharraf’s treason case has also sparked tensions between the country’s civilian rulers and the military leadership. Allowing Musharraf to travel abroad is widely seen as a possible way to ease those tensions.

The government has opposed Musharraf’s petition, saying he wants to leave the country to avoid facing the treason charges along with other cases. He also faces charges related to the assassination of former Pakistani prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.

The court’s decision on Thursday led to jubilation among Musharraf’s loyalists and party workers.

“We are happy over the court decision,” said Aasia Ishaque, a spokeswoman for the All Pakistan Muslim League, a political party formed by the former military ruler. “This is a victory for truth. Now there is no hurdle and General Musharraf could go abroad and see his ill mother.”

Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 — when he took over after toppling the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a military coup — until 2008, when he resigned as president in the face of impeachment proceedings. He subsequently left the country for self-imposed exile in London.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March 2013 but quickly faced a raft of legal problems, including the charges of high treason.

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