A Pakistani special court sentenced former military dictator and president Pervez Musharraf to death in absentia on Tuesday, an unprecedented move in a country where the armed forces are often considered immune from prosecution.
In a two-to-one majority, the three-member special court headed by judge Waqar Ahmad Seth announced the verdict, his spokesman Mohammad Amjad said by phone on Tuesday, ending six-year long high treason proceedings against the former general for suspending the nation’s constitution in 2007.
Musharraf, who has been in Dubai since 2016 seeking medical treatment, has the right to appeal in the Supreme Court, according to former attorney general Ashtar Ausaf. It is the first time in Pakistan’s 72-year history that a military ruler has been tried for high treason.
Musharraf, as the army chief, toppled the civilian government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999 and later ruled as the country’s military president. He imposed a state of emergency when facing growing opposition to his rule – suspending all civil liberties, human rights and democratic processes from November 2007 to February 2008.
He resigned later in 2008 to avoid impeachment by parliament, after a political party that backed him fared poorly in a general election. He has spent much of the time since then abroad.
The final years of his rule were marked by struggles with the judiciary stemming from his wish to remain head of the army while also being president. He had tried to sack the chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of a state of emergency.
Last month, Musharraf issued a video recording from a hospital bed in Dubai in which he said he was not being given a fair hearing in the case that was filed by Sharif, soon after he returned to power in 2013.
“I served the nation and made decisions for the betterment of the country,” Musharraf said in the video clip.
The nation’s benchmark KSE-100 index fell as much as 1.5 per cent on the news of the verdict before paring losses to 0.3 per cent in Karachi.
A cigar-smoking, whisky-drinking moderate, Musharraf sided with the United States in its “war on terror” after the September 11 attacks in New York, a decision that was criticised by religious parties and ushered in years of Islamist violence in Pakistan.
The special court had delayed handing down its judgment in November after Prime Minister Imran Khan’s administration and Musharraf requested more time for arguments. An anti-terrorism court has already declared him to be an absconder and ordered the confiscation of his assets in the murder case of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.
Musharraf never attended legal proceedings, citing poor health. He has been in self-imposed exile ever since a travel ban was lifted in 2016 that allowed him to seek medical treatment abroad.
“Musharraf wanted to record his statement and was ready to visit Pakistan but he wanted foolproof security which was not provided,” said his lawyer, Akhtar Shah. “He is still in Dubai and sick.”
A ‘startup’ is a company that is confused about – 1. What its product is. 2. Who its customers are. 3. How to make money.