Pakistan court backs Musharraf request to leave country

image copyrightAP
image captionFormer leader Pervez Musharraf is on trial for treason and faces other serious charges

A court in Pakistan has backed ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf's request to leave the country.

The Sindh High Court removed Mr Musharraf's name from an exit control list on Thursday. The former leader is currently barred from leaving Pakistan.

Mr Musharraf is currently on trial for treason. He denies the charges and has described the accusations as politically motivated.

The government has 15 days to appeal before the order comes into effect.

Pakistan's military is watching the trial of the former general closely - correspondents say they are concerned over the precedent the trial could set in a country with a history of military rule.

Mike Wooldridge, BBC News, Sindh High Court

This is a break for Pervez Musharraf in the decidedly ill fated story of his return last year from exile and his plan to return to political life. Today's ruling means he must stay in Pakistan for at least a further 15 days - but his lawyer hopes that in the spirit of the ruling the government might let him go earlier.

But there are new questions now. Given that Mr Musharraf faces charges ranging up to treason, if the government takes no further action to block his departure will it be severely criticised by those who want to see him convicted? The army on the other hand is unhappy about a former chief of staff being dragged through the courts. If Mr Musharraf leaves now does that deal with the army's concerns?

He has signalled that he wants to continue the battle to clear his name. From where, and how, remain unclear.

House arrest

On Thursday, Mr Musharraf's lawyer Farogh Naseem said: "The court has allowed our appeal and ordered to strike down Musharraf's name from the Exit Control List. The order will be executed after 15 days."

He also told the BBC that if allowed to leave, the former army chief would come back to Pakistan to face trial and clear his name.

media captionLawyer Farogh Naseem: Musharraf "wants to clear his name''

Mr Musharraf is currently under house arrest. He was admitted to hospital for chest pain in January.

In April, the Interior Ministry turned down his request to end a travel ban preventing him from leaving the country, to visit his sick mother in Dubai.

Many in Pakistan believe he could flee the country and avoid facing charges, if allowed to travel.

Barred from standing

Mr Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999, ousting then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. who is now back in power.

He named himself president in 2001, but left the country in 2008 after losing elections and facing possible impeachment.

He dramatically returned to the country in March 2013 to compete in elections, but was barred from standing.

Mr Sharif became prime minister for a third time after winning the 2013 polls. Mr Musharraf now faces a series of court cases.

Cases against Mr Musharraf

image copyrightReuters
image captionMr Musharraf's supporters have held rallies to show solidarity with him

Since Pervez Musharraf's return to Pakistan in March 2013, he has faced four criminal cases but was bailed in all of them.

His most serious challenge is a treason case, which bears five charges including suspending the constitution and imposing emergency rule in 2007. He has pleaded not guilty but could face a death sentence if convicted.

He was also charged:

•In connection with the 2006 killing of a rebel Baloch politician, Akbar Bugti

•In connection with the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto

•For putting nearly 60 senior judges under house arrest in November 2007

Although he was not formally charged, he is also on bail in connection with the killing of a cleric in the 2007 Red Mosque siege in Islamabad.

Mr Musharraf had ordered troops to storm the mosque after a stand-off with hardline Islamists barricaded inside. The operation left a cleric and more than 100 others dead.

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