Govt refuses Musharraf safe passage in ‘national interest’

* Interior Ministry says cases are pending in court against former army chief and it can’t allow him to leave country in ‘public interest’

ISLAMABAD: In response to the former military ruler’s request for removal of his name from the Exit Control List (ECL), the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, after two days consultation with party members and military leadership, on Wednesday refused to give Pervez Musharraf a safe passage.
“The federal government is unable to accede to your requests in public interest,” stated a vaguely-worded communiqué released by the Interior Ministry, “The requests have been considered on the basis of record pronouncements of the superior courts on the cited subject and pending criminal cases in the various courts.” 
Sources privy to the development said the ministry statement had its reasons – mostly political, but Musharraf’s spokesperson, Rashid Qureshi, claimed that the letter had not yet been received. 
A day after the special court indicted Musharraf on five counts of high treason, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif headed into talks with the army chief and ISI director general as well as Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Information Minister Pervaiz Rashid and Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on whether or not to allow the former military ruler to travel abroad to seek medical treatment and see his ailing mother. 
Notably most of the PML-N leaders opposed the idea of offering Musharraf any concessions.
The special court, which indicted Musharraf for high treason, had put the ball in the government’s court in relation to the plea brought by the former president on Tuesday to be allowed to travel abroad.
Musharraf’s lawyer Dr Farogh Naseem had already said he would move the Supreme Court if the government did not respond favourably.
An Interior Ministry official said that after deliberations it was decided that it would be a better that any decision on the matter should be taken in the light of a judicial order. “It is more of a political decision and has minimal legal hurdles,” the official said. “The government is perhaps weighing its options and possible repercussions of the decision.”
Many believe that the future course of action was decided so as to not to create an impression that the government was making any deal with Musharraf. 
According to Railways Minister and top PML-N leader Khawaja Saad Rafique, a decision on Musharraf’s petition will be made in the next few days. 
Sources however said the former president would approach the Sindh High Court, which had put him on the ECL last year, to have his name dropped from the list. 
Meanwhile, a member of Musharraf’s legal defence team, Rana Ejaz, said it was with “secret diplomacy” that Musharraf appeared in the court and that the government had deceived Musharraf. Musharraf’s spokesperson Rashid Qureshi denied having any knowledge of Ejaz’s statements.
Moreover, President Mamnoon Hussain said he would follow the recommendation of the prime minister if a request for pardon were submitted to him. 
Meanwhile, a petition was filed on Wednesday in the Supreme Court under Article 184 of the Constitution to restrain the movement of Musharraf. Shahid Orakzai prayed that no person who stands charged for high treason could claim freedom of movement and fundamental rights as a citizen during trial proceedings. He also prayed to declare that no person who stands charged for high treason could leave the country on parole. 
Orakzai raised the question whether Article 15 of the Constitution did entitle a citizen to exit Pakistan to dodge a criminal trial. “The Article 15 does guarantee the right of citizen to remain in, enter and move freely throughout Pakistan, but does not give any right or power to leave/exit Pakistan at will,” he added. 
“This petition under Article 184(3) would be the last resort to block the possible exit of a person facing trial for high treason,” the petitioner said.
The speculation was rife last two days that the former military ruler is likely to leave the country after a special aircraft of a Gulf country was spotted at an airbase of Rawalpindi. Once regarded as Pakistan’s most powerful man who ruled the country without any check over his power for around nine years, Musharraf has been in hot waters ever since he touched down in Pakistan last April. 

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