Musharraf to be held in custody at home

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A PAKISTANI judge yesterday ordered that former military ruler Pervez Musharraf be held in custody for two weeks until the next hearing in a case related to his 2007 decision to sack and detain several judges.

The police then declared Musharraf’s lavish country residence a jail, paving the way for him to be eld there under what is essentially house arrest.

The development is the latest act in the drama surrounding Musharraf that erupted earlier this week and climaxed with his arrest on Friday after a speedy escape from another court hearing.

The former general, who seized power in a coup and ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade, has seen his fortunes plummet since he returned in March after four years in self-imposed exile.

The arrest of such a prominent military figure in a country that has experienced three coups has unsettled Pakistan at a time when it is preparing for historic elections on 11 May.

Yesterday’s order came at a hearing in an Islamabad court, where Musharraf was brought in under heavy security as supporters and opponents gathered outside.

The judge ruled that he should be given judicial remand, which means he will be held in custody until the next hearing on 4 May. Musharraf’s legal team had been pushing to have his estate on the edge of Islamabad declared a sub-jail under Pakistani law.

The Islamabad chief commissioner later issued a notification declaring the residence a jail, said police official Mohammed Khalid.

Musharraf’s arrest stemmed from his decision, while in power, to sack and detain judges, including the country’s chief justice, after declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution.

At the time, Musharraf was apparently concerned the judges would oppose his re-election as president. As a justification for the state of emergency he also cited the growing Taleban insurgency in the country’s north-west.

However, the move backfired horribly. The country’s lawyers took to the streets in protests that eventually weakened Musharraf’s ­government so much that he was forced to call new elections and step down.

A judge has said Musharraf’s 2007 decision amounted to terrorism, which is why the case is now being heard before an anti-terrorism court.