In an unprecedented check of power, Pakistani police arrested former leader Pervez Musharraf on Friday.
Musharraf seized control of the worn-torn country in 1999 and resigned in 2008. He recently returned to Pakistan after three years of self-imposed exile in London and Dubai in order to get his name on the May ballot for the general election. Instead, in his attempt to be considered during the election, he became entangled in a legal battle with judges he’d gone toe-to-toe with while he was in office.
Musharraf often stripped judges of power or detained them while he was in office, crimes for which he will answer now that those same judges ordered for his arrest.
The charges stem mostly from 2007, when Musharraf allegedly violated Pakistan’s constitution by putting multiple judges under house arrest, firing the chief justice, and declaring emergency rule as a military dictator.
A spokesman for Musharraf says he is victim to a "overzealous judiciary" and "unscrupulous lawyers" and that the charges against him are invalid.
"The allegations leveled against the former president in judges detention case are false and politically motivated," Musharraf’s office said in a statement.
The judges, however, are not treating Musharraf’s arrest as a symbol, but are prosecuting him to the fullest extent of his crimes. Currently, the judges have ordered Musharraf to be tired in an anti-terrorism court, claiming his actions could be considered an attack on the state.
Musharraf is under house arrest, but at a police guest house in Islamabad, awaiting his court date.
Though the judges are not treating Musharraf’s arrest symbolically, it does offer a telling image and proof that Pakistan has drastically changed its power dynamics. The fact that a previously untouchable military leader has been detained at all is a hopeful sign that Pakistan’s May 11 election will be another step forward toward a less corrupt regime.