04/18/2013, 00.00
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Islamabad: arrest warrant for Musharraf, new shadows hover over general election

by Jibran Khan
The high court issued the order based on a 2007 arrest warrant. The former president immediately leaves the courtroom escorted by his men. Catholic leadership appeal to people to participate in vote. Bishop of Islamabad: we must "fight for the country" and pray "for peace."

Islamabad (AsiaNews) - The Islamabad High Court has issued an arrest order against the former president and army General Pervez Musharraf on the basis of an arrest warrant approved by judges in March 2007. The former leader - who recently returned to his homeland after four years of exile - was present in the courtroom at the time of the reading of the order. The lawyers tried to obtain a bail extension, while the police did not respond to the order allowing him to leave the court immediately after the ruling, escorted by his men.

Musharraf is involved in a series of legal battles and has been trying to escape arrest for several charges, including treason and judicial proceedings regarding the assassination of Benazir Bhutto and another tribal leader in Balochistan . The Pakistani Taliban have already promised on several occasions to kill the former president, who seized power in a 1999 coup.

As established in recent days by the Electoral Commission, the general elections in Pakistan will be held next May 11. For the first time in the history of the country, the previous government led by the Pakistan People's Party (PPP) President Asif Ali Zardari has been able to complete its mandate albeit amidst controversy and no small amount of scandals. Now there will be a "democratic" handing over of powers, after decades of dictatorships and military coups.

On the future of the election, however, weigh the threats of violence by the Taliban and Islamic extremist fringes. Threats that have materialized in recent weeks with the killing of five politicians vying for a spot in the next parliament. Added to these is a general view held in the country, particularly among young people, according to whom "Sharia is better than democracy." This is what emerged in a recent poll, conducted on a sample of 5 thousand children between the ages of 18 and 29 years, in addition, more than half of the respondents said that "the democratic model did not benefit the country," while 94% feel it is going "in the wrong direction" compared to 50% in a similar survey in 2007.

In the Catholic sphere, Minister for National Harmony Paul Bhatti is a candidate within the ranks of the Pakistan People's Party.  He is the brother of Shahbaz, massacred by Islamic fundamentalists in March 2011 for his opposition to the blasphemy laws. Speaking to AsiaNews, the bishop of Islamabad / Rawalpindi Rufin Anthony launches an appeal to the Christian electorate to "turnout en masse to vote" despite the violence. The prelate emphasizes the religious minority's deep bond with the nation and their desire to "fight for the country," combined with the desire to "pray for peace in Pakistan." This is echoed by Fr. John Francis, of the diocese of Lahore, who emphasizes the "deep political crisis" that the country is currently going through and the doubts surrounding an administration that "fails to prevent" attacks and violence that affect minorities as well, who should be "guaranteed security".



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