Pakistan's former military dictator Pervez Musharraf should not be allowed to elude the serious legal proceedings against him and must be held accountable for human rights abuses, a global watchdog has demanded.
Musharraf, Pakistan's former president and army chief, returned home yesterday after four years in exile in Dubai and London.
"Musharraf should not be allowed to elude the serious legal proceedings against him on his return to Pakistan. Only by ensuring that Musharraf faces the well-documented outstanding charges against him can Pakistan put an end to the military's impunity for abuses," Ali Dayan Hasan, Pakistan director at New York-based Human Rights Watch said.
Legal proceedings are pending against 69-year-old Musharraf in several human rights cases and in November 2011, he was charged with involvement in the killing of Akbar Bugti, a Baloch nationalist leader who died under unclear circumstances while hiding in a cave in August 2006, after a long standoff with the Pakistani military.
Musharraf has the distinction of having suspended constitutional rule twice during his time in office, HRW said.
In February 2011, Musharraf was declared an absconder after a court in Rawalpindi accepted the interim charge-sheet from Pakistan's Federal Investigation Agency, which named the former president as one of the accused in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Musharraf has also been charged with the illegal removal from office and confinement of much of the country's judiciary, including the serving chief justice of the Supreme Court, from November 2007 to March 2008.
After declaring a state of emergency in November 2007, he began a violent crackdown and ordered the detention of some 10,000 political opponents – including most of the country's Supreme Court judges.
The fired chief justice, Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry, five other judges, and several leading lawyers remained under house arrest and were released only when the opposition Pakistan Peoples' Party formed a government and took over the prime minister's office in March 2008.
"Given the personal suffering many judges endured at Musharraf's hands, it will be a real test for Pakistan's judiciary, especially the Supreme Court chief justice, to ensure that prosecutions are impartial. But this is a test they must face and pass if Pakistan is to send a clear message that it will not allow abusive military leaders to escape accountability," Hasan said.
Musharraf seized power in a 1999 military coup and ruled Pakistan until his ouster in 2008. He is also known in India as the architect of the Kargil conflict in 1999.