Pakistan has announced that it would put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, punishable by death or life imprisonment, for imposing emergency rule in 2007.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan announced the move in a live television broadcast on Sunday.
“Following the judgement of the Supreme Court and a report submitted by an inquiry committee, it has been decided to start proceedings against General Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 (high treason) of the Constitution,” he said.
“The decision has been taken in the national interest.”
The government has brought up this case now to divert the attention from its failure to protect people.
The minister said the country’s chief justice would on Monday receive a letter from the government requesting a tribunal of three high court judges to start the proceedings. The government would also announce a special prosecutor on Monday.
Collision course with military
The decision puts the country’s civilian leaders on an unprecedented collision course with the all powerful military.
Musharraf, who has maintained his innocence, would be the first military ruler tried for treason in a country that has experienced three military coups in its 66-year history.
Afshan Adil, a member of Musharraf’s legal team and representative of his All Pakistan Muslim League, denounced the decision but said her leader was not afraid.
“The government has brought up this case now to divert the attention from its failure to protect people,” Adil told AFP news agency.
Raza Bokhari, a spokesman of Musharraf, criticised the move calling it an attempt to undermine Pakistan’s military.
“We view with grave suspicion the timing of the announcement by the Taliban sympathetic Nawaz government to initiate treason proceedings against former President Musharraf,” Bokhari said in a statement referencing the current government’s willingness to hold peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban.
“We not only forcefully reject these charges, but also view them as a vicious attempt to undermine the Pakistan Military.”
Major criminal cases
Musharraf is already facing three other major criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including one related to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
There have been rumours in recent months that a deal would be reached for Musharraf to leave Pakistan without going through with his trials.
The speculation gained momentum after he asked a court last week to let him leave the country to visit his sick mother in Dubai. The court was expected to rule on the application on Monday.
Musharraf overthrew the Sharif government in a military coup in October 1999, but a year later the Supreme Court validated the take over.
During the 2007 emergency rule he suspended the constitution and parliament, and sacked top judges who declared his actions unconstitutional and illegal.