Beleaguered former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf was granted bail on Monday in a case related to the death of a cleric of the radical Lal Masjid during a 2007 military operation, paving the way for his possible release after over six months of house arrest.
Additional District and Sessions Judge Islamabad directed Musharraf to submit two surety bonds of Rs 1 lakh each. The ruling means the 70-year-old is on bail in all the cases, including the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto, the killing of Baloch leader Akbar Bugti and the imposition of emergency in 2007, brought against him since his return to the country from self-imposed exile in March. "He has been granted bail. He will be a free man soon," said Musharraf's lawyer Illyas Siddiqui.
Musharraf is still on the Exit Control List, which bars him from going abroad, but his party claimed he would return to active politics. "Whether his name is on the list or not, he is not going to leave the country. He will hit the streets soon and start his political campaign. He knew what he was getting into when he came here and hence there is no question of him going out," Aasia Ishaque, spokesperson for Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League party, told.
The police has already declared him "innocent" in the murder of cleric Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Advocate Tariq Asad, representing the prosecution, described the grant of bail as "unlawful" and said it would be challenged.
Musharraf, who returned to Pakistan to participate in the May general elections, has been under arrest for nearly six months at his palatial farmhouse, guarded by nearly 300 security personnel, including soldiers and snipers.
Later, after submission of surety bonds in the Supreme Court, when he was closer to possible release, Islamabad police had arrested him last month in the Lal Masjid case. Musharraf, who was then army chief and President, had ordered the crackdown on extremists holed up in the Lal Masjid in 2007. About 100 people, most of them extremists, were killed in the operation.
On the orders of the Islamabad High Court, a case was registered against Musharraf on September 2, charging him with the murder of Rashid and his mother. The case was filed after Rashid's son filed a complaint with police and approached the courts.
The trail in the case is scheduled for November 11 at Musharraf's farmhouse which had been turned into a sub-jail due to security reasons.