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Musharraf arrested in Pakistan on treason charges

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Pakistani special security commandos escort a vehicle carrying former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf as he leaves an Islamabad court Thursday despite a judge ordering his arrest.

ISLAMABAD -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf was arrested early Friday after he fled a court on Thursday when a judge ordered him detained on treason charges.

Musharraf's lawyer Qamar Afzal told NBC News, "Musharraf has surrendered himself before the law, and now he is in judicial custody."

Television footage showed Musharraf being escorted by uniformed police officers to an Islamabad court.

Earlier, Musharraf  had said he was being "punished for making Pakistan prosper and for making the country economically sound."

In a brief televised address that was distributed to different Pakistani channels, Musharraf claimed credit for bringing an "information revolution to Pakistan, breaking the shackles of IMF, building roads and protecting women and minorities. That's why I'm being punished."

It was a moment out of an international suspense novel when former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf dashed out of a courtroom after a judge revoked his bail and ordered his arrest. Musharraf is now back at his heavily fortified compound on the outskirts of Islamabad - surrounded by military commandos and police. Lindsey Hilsum, Channel Four's International editor, reports.   

Musharraf, a retired general, took power in Pakistan in a coup in 1999 and was an ally of the West until he resigned in 2008.

After nearly four years of self-imposed exile in England and despite Taliban death threats, he returned to Pakistan last month hoping to win a seat in the country’s National Assembly in elections in May.

But Musharraf was then accused of treason over events in 2007, when he declared emergency rule during a power struggle with judges. He had been on bail.

During a High Court hearing on Thursday, however, a judge ordered that his bail be canceled and that he be detained.

Then, in dramatic scenes caught on television, Musharraf dashed from the court and left in a black SUV, Reuters reported. The images showed several lawyers making half-hearted attempts to pursue his vehicle.

When he returned to Pakistan, Musharraf was given a security detail -- including special forces units, police and helicopters -- and they helped him get back to his home on the outskirts of Islamabad.

Rashid Qureshi, an adviser to Musharraf and also a former general, said that Musharraf was “safe” in the house.

“Roadblocks have been planted outside his house by the police to protect him, not to cut off his exit. The general is here to stay. He knew of these challenges when he decided to return boldly to Pakistan,” Qureshi said.

“He is still being protected by the police, and did not escape anything or anyone,” he said.

Former President Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan Sunday hoping to return to mainstream politics. NBC's Waj Khan reports.

Musharraf's lawyer Afzal said later that the former president had filed petitions in the Supreme Court, hoping it would overturn the High Court's ruling.

Afzal had insisted Musharraf "did not flee" the court. "He came and left with the same security detail attached to him by the government, which is his right as a former president." 

Musharraf's hopes of standing in the elections were dashed earlier this week when election officers barred him from standing, in part due to the various legal challenges he faces, Reuters reported.

Str / AFP - Getty Images

Images of daily life, political pursuits, religious rites and deadly violence.

Pakistan's military has ruled the nation for more than half of its 66-year history, through coups or from behind the scenes. It sets foreign and security policy even when civilian administrations are in power.

The arrest pushes Pakistan's increasingly audacious judiciary into uncharted territory, challenging a long-standing, unwritten rule that the top ranks of the army, which ruled Pakistan for decades, are untouchable.

Former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the man Musharraf ousted in a coup in 1999, is seen as the front-runner to win the premiership.

Musharraf also faces charges of failing to provide adequate security for former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before she was assassinated in late 2007. 

Reuters and NBC News' Ian Johnston contributed to this report.


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