24 Jun 2013

Pakistan to try Musharraf for treason

9:46 pm on 24 June 2013

Pakistan's new government says it will put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, charges punishable by death or life imprisonment.

The retired general, who returned from four years of self-imposed exile in March this year, has been under house arrest at his villa on the edge of Islamabad since 19 April.

He is fighting a series of cases dating back to his rule in 1999-2008, which began when he seized power from then prime minister Nawaz Sharif, who returned to office in June after winning landmark elections, AFP reports.

"Musharraf's actions came under the purview of high treason," Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif told parliament on Monday. "He should face trial ... and will have to answer for his guilt before the court."

The attorney-general delivered the same statement on behalf of the government in the Supreme Court, where a treason trial can be initiated only by the state.

For months Pakistan's highest court has been hearing a petition from lawyers demanding that Mr Musharraf be tried for treason for subverting the constitution by imposing emergency rule and sacking judges in 2007.

Before the general elections on 11 May swept Mr Sharif back to power, a caretaker government had refused to initiate the trial against Pervez Musharraf, saying it was beyond its mandate and up to the new, elected government.

But Mr Sharif did not mince his words on Monday. "Musharraf violated the constitution twice. He overthrew an elected government in 1999 and put everything into jeopardy. He sacked judges and imprisoned them. We will follow the process of law and all political forces will be taken into confidence."

The position could put the civilian government at loggerheads with the powerful army, which vehemently opposes the prospect of its former chief facing the courts.

However, it has been welcomed by the two main opposition parties, Bhutto's Pakistan People's Party (PPP) and Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) led by Imran Khan.