ISLAMABAD - The Supreme Court Wednesday accepted former President and Army Chief Pervez Musharraf’s bail plea in the murder case of Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

The former military dictator could leave Pakistan soon as Thursday as he has now secured bails in all the cases he was facing in the county, his lawyer said after the court decision.

Musharraf had been implicated in four cases – promulgation of Emergency on Nov 3, 2007, judges’ detention case, and murder cases of ex-PM Benazir Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bugti. He had been given bail in rest of the three cases earlier, while no challan had been filed in another case pertaining to high treason.

A three-judge bench, headed by Justice Nasirul Mulk and comprising Justice Sarmad Jalal Usmani and Justice Musheer Aalam Khan, accepting bail directed Musharraf’s counsel to deposit two surety bonds of Rs1 million each. In the previous hearing, the court had issued notice to applicant Jamil Bugti, a son of Nawab Akbar Bugti, but he did not appear before the bench on Wednesday.

During the proceeding, the bench observed that substantial evidence was not available to establish that Musharraf was involved in the criminal conspiracy regarding the murder of Akbar Bugti. “This is a case of criminal conspiracy for which solid evidences are required, and due to their unavailability, there is no justification for rejection of the bail plea,” it added.

Musharraf’s fate has been subject to intense speculation since he became the first former army chief to be arrested this year, breaking an unwritten rule that the top ranks of the military are untouchable, even after they have retired.

“The jail staff present at his house will pack up and leave as soon as they get the orders from the lower court,” Ahmed Raza Kasuri, who heads the Musharraf defence team, told Reuters. “Musharraf can fly to Dubai tomorrow once these legal formalities are completed,” he said.

During the hearing, the bench asked Balochistan Additional Prosecutor General Tahir Khattak about the evidences gathered against Musharraf. Khattak told the court that according to the statements of co-accused, Musharraf had ordered to take action against Bugti. He also stated that a CD recording in this regard was also available. Khattak insisted that Bugti was killed on the directives of Musharraf. Justice Sarmad Jalal Osmany questioned if anyone had witnessed Musharraf or his alleged accomplices conspiring against Bugti.

The counsel for Musharraf, Ibrahim Satti told the bench that his client was on judicial remand for the last six and half months but police could not furnish evidence against him. He also said that around 45 life threats had been given to his client, who had been detained at his Chak Shahzad farmhouse in Islamabad.

The court asked the counsel that why his client was not detained in Balochistan. Satti replied that Balochistan police itself agreed to detain Musharraf in Islamabad due to the security concerns. He also said the investigation officer in Bugti murder case, Sardar Khan, had submitted a plea in ATC Rawalpindi that there was a life threat to Musharraf in Quetta.

Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Khan Bugti was killed in an explosion in a cave, where he had taken refuge on August 26, 2006, during a military crackdown ordered by Musharraf who was president and army chief at the time.

Musharraf, who has been under house arrest in a villa on the outskirts of Islamabad, was army chief when he took power in a 1999 coup. He later became president as well. He stepped down after the party of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto won an election in 2008. He returned to Pakistan in March after nearly four years of self-imposed exile to contest a May 11 general election, but he was disqualified from standing because of pending court cases.

Many observers believe a face-saving reason for his departure, possibly on grounds of ill health, will be found. The current army chief has also suggested the military is unhappy with how authorities have treated Musharraf. The May election was won by the party of Nawaz Sharif – the prime minister Musharraf ousted in his coup 14 years ago.

Following court’s decision, workers and leaders of All Pakistan Muslim League reacted with joy.

APML Secretary General Dr Amjad made it clear that Musharraf is a free citizen. He, however, said that the party chief will not travel overseas soon. Amjad was speaking to the media at party central secretariat in Islamabad.

Amjad reiterated the stance that his leader was implicated in various cases that were being proved fake by the courts one by one. “It has now been crystal clear that all the cases against Gen Musharraf were concocted. The former president is a free citizen who can go now anywhere, anytime.

Earlier Wednesday, Musharraf’s counsel Ahmed Raza Kasuri told journalists that Musharraf can move to Dubai to meet his ailing mother. Kasuri is representing the former army chief in Bugti murder case, and he is also a central leader of Musharraf’s APML.

Monitoring Desk adds: According to Waqt News, Interior Ministry sources said that former president Pervez Musharraf cannot fly abroad as his name is included in the Exit Control List (ECL). “As long as Musharraf’s name is included in the ECL, he cannot go abroad,” the sources added.