Islamabad, Pakistan – Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani president and army chief, has been indicted by a special court on treason charges, and will face the death penalty if found guilty.
In the court room in Islamabad on Monday, Musharraf was read the indictment by the three-member bench, led by Justice Faisal Arab. The special court has been hearing arguments pertaining to the dismissal of judges and suspension of the constitution by Musharraf on November 3, 2007.
Musharraf has denied all the charges, alleging that the case is politically motivated.
His lawyers asked the court to authorise travel to the United Arab Emirates so he could visit his mother and travel to the US for medical treatment. The court dismissed the request, saying it was up to the government to decide whether Musharraf could leave the country.
Hopefully, this deters future generals from assuming they can do what they want while the politicians and judges cower before them and give them cover for their actions.
The former president appeared in court in person for the second time since being hospitalised on January 2 while en route to an earlier hearing. He has since been receiving treatment for a heart condition at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in Rawalpindi, the Pakistani capital’s twin city.
“The indictment has set the precedent that a military adventurer will be held responsible for flouting the law,” said Nadir Hassan, a Karachi-based journalist and columnist.
“The ‘doctrine of necessity’, through which the judiciary has given legal cover to coups is now dead. Hopefully, this deters future generals from assuming they can do what they want while the politicians and judges cower before them and give them cover for their actions,” Hassan told Al Jazeera.
Security was tight all along the route from the AFIC to the court, with hundreds of security personnel deployed to secure the route and the court premises. Musharraf has faced multiple death threats since returning to the country in March 2013, and was earlier being held under house arrest at his farmhouse, because his security could not be guaranteed in jail.
The indictment on treason charges is historic for Pakistan, marking the first time that a military ruler of the country has been investigated or indicted on such charges. The special court has held several hearings since being constituted in November 2013, and its investigations have now culminated in Monday’s indictment.
Following the hearing, Musharraf was rushed back to the hospital in Rawalpindi, accompanied by a security convoy of dozens of vehicles and government-provided security personnel.
The former president has been facing several legal cases since his return to the country, including those pertaining to the killings of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007 and Baloch nationalist leader Nawab Akbar Bugti in 2005, during his tenure as president. While he has been bailed on those cases, the treason trial remains his most serious legal challenge.
Musharraf seized power in a military coup against the country’s government, then led, as it is today, by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, in October 1999. The treason trial, however, only pertains to events in 2007.