Former president Pervez Musharraf dramatically fled the Islamabad high court on Thursday after judges ordered his arrest, an ignominious retreat for a man who once dominated Pakistan and hoped to revive his political fortunes.
As his bail application in a case relating to the house arrest of top judges in 2007 was rejected, Musharraf was whisked out of court by bodyguards in black suits and into a waiting armoured vehicle that drove him straight to his high-security farmhouse in the Chak Shahzad area.
Most of his security detail are Pakistan Rangers, under the army’s command, and the police did not stop the getaway.
The court asked the police chief why his men allowed Musharraf to leave when they should have arrested him. It also declared his escape from court a criminal act.
Analysts as well as Musharraf’s lawyer, Ahmad Raza Kasuri, said the powerful military establishment would step in to protect “one of its own”. “He is a former army chief. The army high command will not allow a former COAS to be seen in handcuffs,” Kasuri told Geo Television.
It is also believed the army is stopping Musharraf from leaving his house. “We believe his house will be declared a sub-jail,” said one official.
Aides said Musharraf was calm after the drama of the day. In the words of his lawyer, “he is smoking a cigar and blowing circles in the air”.
Muhammad Amjad of the All Pakistan Muslim League, founded by Musharraf, said the exit from court was for security reasons.
"Lawyers were protesting outside and there was a fear General Musharraf would be attacked. That is why he was advised to leave," he said.
The party said their leader "respects the court" and would file an appeal in the supreme court.
Musharraf's efforts to run for parliament in the May 11 general election - after returning from self-exile last month to "save" Pakistan - had already turned into a debacle with poll authorities on Tuesday banning his participation.