A Pakistani court has imposed a lifetime ban on former president Pervez Musharraf from contesting elections, the latest blow since he returned from exile to make a political comeback.
The Peshawar High Court handed down the lifetime ban Tuesday after hearing an appeal by Musharraf’s lawyer to allow him to run in the upcoming election.
“The former dictator [Musharraf] had ordered senior judges and their families be put under house arrest and twice abrogated the country’s constitution,” Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan said when reading out the order.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March, planning to stand in May 11 vote after four years in self-imposed exile. But, judges barred him from running and put him under house arrest in connection with a pair of court cases against him.
One involves his decision to fire senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, while in power. The other relates to the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Government prosecutors have accused Musharraf of being involved – allegations he has denied.
Musharraf seized power in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief and ruled for nearly a decade. He stepped down in 2008 because of growing discontent with his rule.
One of Musharraf’s lawyers, Saad Shibli, said he would go to the Supreme Court to challenge Tuesday’s ruling, claiming the former leader should not be singled out for punishment for his actions while in power since others were involved.
“About 500 officials at different levels and institutions were part of Musharraf’s actions, and if those actions come under scrutiny, all those people should be involved in this matter,” Shibli said.
It was the first time a court in Pakistan had declared a citizen ineligible from running for public office for life.
On April 20, a court remanded the former president in custody for two weeks, a deadline set to expire on May 4, as judges pushed ahead with plans to put Musharraf on trial for a crackdown on the judiciary during his time in office.
On Tuesday, an anti-terrorism court in the garrison city of Rawalpindi put Musharraf on a 14-day judicial remand for charges of failing to provide adequate security for Bhutto before her assassination.
The new deadline of May 14 means Musharraf will be in detention on election day.
The elections are seen as a key moment in Pakistan’s attempts to shake off a legacy of decades of military rule as they represent the first time a democratically elected civilian government has completed a term in office.
Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999, is seen as the front runner.