Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 10 August 2020

Pakistan court annuls Pervez Musharraf’s death sentence

High court in Lahore rules former leader’s treason trial was unconstitutional

Pakistan’s former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf addresses supporters in 2013. AP
Pakistan’s former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf addresses supporters in 2013. AP

A contentious ruling to hang Pakistan’s former president for treason was quashed after a high court ruled his trial was unconstitutional.

Gen Pervez Musharraf was sentenced to death last month after a long-delayed trial for his suspension of Pakistan’s constitution to impose a state of emergency in 2007.

The verdict triggered an outcry from Pakistan’s armed forces who have ruled for long periods and whose leaders are widely viewed as beyond civilian prosecution.

The Lahore High Court hearing Gen Musharraf’s petition against the verdict on Monday ruled the special court that conducted the trial was unconstitutional.

“The filing of the complaint, the constitution of the court, the selection of the prosecution team are declared to be illegal ... and at the end of the day the full judgment has been set aside,” the prosecutor representing the government, Ishtiaq Khan, told AFP.

“Yes, he is a free man. Right now, there is no judgment against him.”

Gen Musharraf’s lawyer, Azhar Siddique, said the ruling had “nullified everything”.

Few had expected the unprecedented sentence to be carried out against the former special forces officer who seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999.

He has been in self-imposed exile for the past three years and undergoing medical treatment.

His sentence had been welcomed by opposition politicians as a boost for civilian supremacy and a rare moment of military accountability.

The three-judge special court had further angered the armed forces by declaring that if Gen Musharraf died before the sentence could be enacted, then his body should be dragged through the streets and displayed in public.

Gen Musharraf said at the time that he was the victim of a vendetta.

Judges did not release a written decision, but the court had heard last week that the special court to try Gen Musharraf had been unconstitutional because it did not have approval from the federal Cabinet.

Prosecutors now have the possibility of taking new action with Cabinet approval, but lawyers suggested that was unlikely – Imran Khan’s government is considered close to the military and the attorney general had immediately condemned the December verdict as unfair.

When Gen Musharraf tried to sack the chief justice in March 2007, he sparked protests and months of turmoil that led him to impose a state of emergency later that year.

Civil liberties, human rights and democratic processes were suspended from November 2007 to February 2008.

He resigned later in 2008 to avoid impeachment, after a political party that backed him fared poorly in a general election.

Updated: January 13, 2020 08:21 PM

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