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Pakistani government says it will obey Musharraf arrest order

By Jethro Mullen. Nic Robertson and Laura Smith-Spark, CNN
updated 11:41 AM EDT, Thu April 18, 2013
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • NEW: Pakistan's government will obey an order to arrest Pervez Musharraf, a spokesman says
  • Islamabad High Court asks city police chief to explain why Musharraf wasn't arrested
  • Pervez Musharraf's office: The decision to deny a bail extension is "unwarranted judicial activism"
  • Musharraf recently returned to Pakistan from exile to try to run in upcoming elections

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- The government will obey an order by Islamabad's High Court to arrest former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's interim Minister of Information Arif Nizami said Thursday.

The order is legally binding, said Nizami, who is acting as a spokesman for the government.

The government must act within 24 hours of the high court decision or face contempt of court charges. It appears ready to comply with the order.

This means Musharraf could be placed under house arrest at his villa as soon as Thursday evening.

Local TV stations earlier showed police entering his villa compound, where Musharraf went after being quickly ushered from the court by his private security detail.

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The arrest order was made at the same time as the court rejected Musharraf's request for a bail extension in a case he is facing over the detention of judges in 2007.

The ruling set the stage for his arrest and has further undermined his political ambitions.

Musharraf's office called the Islamabad court's decision "unwarranted judicial activism" that was "seemingly motivated by personal vendettas," and said it would appeal against it at the Supreme Court.

But Ibrahim Satti, one of Musharraf's attorneys, told local TV reporters that they had arrived at the court too late in the day and that the Supreme Court refused to accept the appeal.

Satti said Musharraf's legal team would seek to file the appeal Friday instead, local TV stations reported.

Meanwhile, the Islamabad High Court issued a ruling calling the inspector general of Islamabad police to court Friday to explain why his officers did not arrest Musharraf in court Thursday as instructed.

The high court ruling asks the inspector what precise steps police took to arrest Musharraf.

The ruling also says that when Musharraf allegedly ordered the house arrest of senior judges in 2007, it was an "act of terrorism" to prevent the judges from doing their job.

Musharraf halted from running for parliament, lawyer says

Return from exile

Musharraf resigned as president of the South Asian nation five years ago and went into exile in London and Dubai. He returned to Pakistan under heavy security to contest three court cases against him and run in upcoming elections.

But so far, his return does not seem to be going according to plan.

This week, Pakistani election officials barred Musharraf from running for a seat in parliament, a decision his lawyer has said he will challenge in the Supreme Court.

That decision appears to have emboldened members of the judiciary, many of whom have bitter memories of their treatment by Musharraf during his time in power.

The rejection of bail Thursday came in a case in which Musharraf faces accusations that he illegally imposed house arrest on senior judges during a period of emergency rule he imposed six years ago.

It wasn't immediately clear how the high court's ruling would play out.

Pakistani authorities also have an inconsistent track record in enforcing court decisions against prominent figures. A January court order for the arrest of Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf in connection with a long-running corruption case has yet to be carried out.

No former Pakistani army chief has been arrested before, and former presidents have only ever been placed under house arrest, never sent to jail.

When asked last week about his fears of arrest, Musharraf brushed the question aside.

He had previously received bail extensions in the cases concerning him. And he was initially granted "protective" bail to ward off potential arrest when he returned to Pakistan. But the judiciary appears to have taken a more aggressive line than he may have expected, stepping up the pursuit of cases against him.

Musharraf: 'There is no case against me'

Accusations over Bhutto

Besides the case concerning the detention of the judges, Musharraf is also accused separately of not doing enough to protect the life of Benazir Bhutto, the first woman to be elected prime minister of Pakistan. A leading member of the opposition, she was assassinated on December 27, 2007, after leaving a campaign rally in Rawalpindi, just two weeks before the general election in which she hoped to be returned to office.

In another case, he is charged with ordering his troops to kill Nawab Akbar Bugti, a popular tribal leader in the volatile province of Balochistan, in 2006.

Musharraf was disqualified from contesting elections in Pakistan because of the state of emergency he declared in 2007. Even though he hasn't been tried for that action, the move was ruled an act of treason, making him ineligible to run for office. Musharraf maintains he should not be barred because he has not been convicted of any criminal acts.

Some Pakistanis are happy to see the return of the ex-military ruler, hoping his leadership could help restore order to a country riddled with political division and plagued by extremist violence.

But he also made many enemies in the final years of his presidency, notably among the judges he detained.

The Pakistani Taliban vowed to send a death squad to hunt down the former president if he returned to the country.

Musharraf has said he has been living under threats of death since September 11, 2001, when he supported the American war on terror and fought against the Taliban.

The former general became president after a bloodless coup in 1999.

Musharraf's popularity began declining in 2007 after he suspended the nation's Supreme Court chief justice for "misuse of authority." The move resulted in protests and accusations that he was attempting to influence the court's ruling on whether he could seek another five-year term.

Read more: Musharraf halted from running for parliament, lawyer says

Read more: Musharraf: 'There is no case against me'

CNN's Nic Robertson, and journalists Nasir Habib and Imran Javed, reported from Islamabad. CNN's Jethro Mullen reported and wrote from Hong Kong. CNN's Laura Smith-Spark wrote from London.

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