Ex-leader Musharraf leaves Pakistan after travel ban lifted

Former Pakistani president and military ruler, Pervez Musharraf addresses a youth parliament in Karachi on December 4, 2014 Image copyright AFP
Image caption Pervez Musharraf, 70, denies all the charges laid against him and has called them politically motivated

Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf has arrived in Dubai for medical treatment, days after the Supreme Court lifted a travel ban.

His lawyers say he needs urgent spinal treatment unavailable in Pakistan.

Mr Musharraf returned from self-imposed exile in 2013 to fight elections, but soon found himself fighting an array of charges relating to his time in power.

Before he left the former president told reporters that he would return to face all pending cases against him.

"I am a commando and I love my homeland. I will come back in a few weeks or months," he said according to local media.

BBC correspondents say observers are sceptical about his promised return.

Profile: Pervez Musharraf

Will Pakistan let Musharraf off the hook?

The charges relate to the former general's imposition of a 2007 state of emergency and the assassination of former PM Benazir Bhutto the same year.

Mr Musharraf, 70, denies all the charges and has called them politically motivated.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption Paramilitary soldiers were seen leaving the residence of Mr Musharraf before his scheduled departure

Analysis: M. Ilyas Khan, BBC News, Islamabad

The way for Mr Musharraf's departure to Dubai was cleared by the Supreme Court earlier this week when it struck down a court order restricting his travel. Legally, the government could have issued fresh orders to continue those restrictions, but chose otherwise.

This is in sharp contrast to its attitude in November 2013 when, shortly after coming into power, it charged the former president with treason, ruffling feathers in Pakistan's powerful army, of which Mr Musharraf is a former chief.

Initially upbeat about a civilian-led process of normalisation with India - traditionally the military's domain - Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government was nearly brought to its knees by protests in Islamabad in 2014, which many blamed on the military. Since then, Mr Musharraf's trial has been on the back burner and relations with India have cooled.

Mr Musharraf had ended his exile in March 2013 to contest election and face court cases pending against him. His departure on Friday is seen by many as the end of an era. But some believe he may still return to face his cases, just as he did three years ago.

Mr Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999, when he was army chief. He remained president until 2008, when a democratically elected government came into power.

He left the country soon afterwards to live in self-imposed exile in Dubai and London.

However, he returned in 2013, hoping to lead his party into elections - but was disqualified from standing.

He faces a murder claim for failing to prevent the assassination of Ms Bhutto. Other charges relate to events in the same year - the state of emergency, his suspension of judges during that period and the death of a cleric during a siege at the Red Mosque in Islamabad in 2007.

In January he was cleared over the 2006 killing of Baloch rebel leader Akbar Bugti, his first acquittal in the cases in which he is charged.

Pakistani media reactions

General Musharraf's departure dominates broadcast and print media. "The general is free to walk away" says Pakistan Today newspaper. "Nawaz surrenders to Gen Musharraf," declares The News daily.

The government's decision to give a him a safe exit was a "cruel joke" that "badly exposed the hollowness of the system", Ansar Abbasi writes in The News, warning that Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif "has further weakened himself and left the door wide open for future military interventions".

Other papers criticise the leeway shown by courts to the general, with Pakistan Today asking whether there is genuine rule of law in the country. It adds that Gen Musharraf's pledge to return is not worth more "than the constitution which he violated".

Urdu-language daily Pakistan notes that the general cannot now complain about the government "taking revenge", adding that "it is now his duty to fulfil the promise to come back".

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