Former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf sentenced to death in case of treason
This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former army chief has been sentenced to death.Updated: Dec 18, 2019 07:09 IST
A Pakistani court on Tuesday sentenced former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of high treason and subverting the Constitution in a case related to the emergency he imposed in 2007, a move that comes as a major embarrassment for the army high command.
This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former army chief has been sentenced to death. The powerful army, usually considered immune from prosecution, expressed its opposition to the verdict and said Musharraf can “never be a traitor”. The Imran Khan government said it would review the special court’s decision.
Musharraf, 76, was sentenced in absentia as he has been in self-imposed exile since a travel ban was lifted in 2016 to allow him to seek medical treatment abroad. The treason trial began in 2013 and is one of several cases related to the state of emergency from November 2007 to February 2008, when all civil liberties, human rights, and the democratic process were suspended.
The former president, who was born in Old Delhi, has been living in Dubai and is said to be very ill and unlikely to travel home to face the sentence. Pakistan and the UAE have no extradition treaty and Dubai authorities are unlikely to arrest him.
The special court said in a summary that it analysed complaints, records, arguments and facts, and reached a majority verdict, with two of the three judges giving the decision against Musharraf.
The military’s media arm said the verdict has been received “with a lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan Armed Forces”. It added: “An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor.”
The military further said the “due legal process seems to have been ignored, including constitution of the special court, denial of fundamental right of self defence, undertaking individual specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste”.
It added that Pakistan’s armed forces “expect that justice will be dispensed in line with the Constitution”.
Musharraf would have the right to challenge his sentence if he returns to Pakistan, where the military maintains a strong grip on power and has ruled the country for half its 72-year history.
The case was heard by a bench comprising justices Waqar Ahmad Seth of the Peshawar high court, Shahid Karim of the Lahore high court and Nazar Akbar of the Sindh high court. The bench was formed on the orders of the Supreme Court and the sentence was delivered under Article 6 of the Constitution.
The former Pakistan Muslim League (N) government led by Nawaz Sharif filed the treason case against Musharraf in 2013. Earlier, the special court said it would announce the verdict on December 17 even if arguments by both sides weren’t completed.
Sharif himself was sentenced to seven years in jail in a corruption case in 2017. He was released on medical bail and is in London, receiving treatment for various ailments including an immune system disorder.
Musharraf was indicted in the case in March 2014 after he appeared before the judges and rejected all charges. In March 2016, the former president left Pakistan for Dubai for medical treatment after his name was removed from the Exit Control List on the Supreme Court’s orders. A few months later, the special court declared him a fugitive and ordered the confiscation of his properties after he didn’t appear for several hearings. Later, his passport and identity card too were cancelled on the orders of the court.
In a statement from his hospital bed on December 3, Musharraf said he was being tried though he had served Pakistan all his life. “I keep coming and going to the hospital,” he said in a video message. “As for me, the commission can come here, and I can give them a statement. They can come and hear me, see my condition and then decide for themselves... and my lawyer will be heard in the court too and then I hope I will get justice,” he said.