Protesters demand a fair hearing for Pakistan's Musharraf
Vengeance may be a motive in prosecution of the ex-president
More than 100 demonstrators, many of them Christians, rallied outside the Lahore Press Club on Friday to protest against what they claim is a judicial bias against former president Pervez Musharraf.
The ex-military ruler is presently under house arrest in Islamabad and faces charges over his decision to detain and sack several senior judges when he imposed emergency rule as the country's president in November 2007. He is also accused of conspiracy to murder former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who died in a suicide attack in the same year.
His bid to stand in the May 11 general elections was formally rejected when he returned to Pakistan last month, after over four years of self-imposed exile in Dubai.
Musharraf, who ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008 after seizing power in a bloodless coup, also faces fierce criticism from radical clerics for a military attack on the controversial Lal Masjid - Red Mosque - that killed 103 people in 2007.
In a recent video message, Taliban militants threatened “to send Pervez Musharraf to hell”. They hold him responsible for the large-scale bloodshed that followed his decision to side with the US in its ‘war on terror.’
But there are concerns that the prosecution of Musharraf is as much about vengeance as the pursuit of justice.
The demonstrators, including members of HLCP, the Human Liberation Commission Pakistan, brandished red crosses and chanted “no to terrorism, justice for Musharraf.”
“The decisions of the high court stink of personal vendettas instead of legal analysis of his actions,” said Pastor Anwar Javed, director of HLCP. “We demand justice on the basis of merit and respect for the law and constitution while investigating him.”
Javed also condemned an assassination attempt last week, when Islamabad police defused a bomb from a vehicle which was packed with explosives and parked near Musharraf’s farmhouse.
“An attempt to kill someone with explosives … is highly regrettable,” he said.
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