x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 17 January 2018

Musharraf denounces treason charges as ‘vendetta’

Pakistan’s former military ruler denounces treason charges against him as a ‘vendetta’ and says he has the backing of the country’s powerful army in the case.

ISLAMABAD // Pakistan’s former military ruler on Sunday denounced treason charges against him as a “vendetta”, and said he had the backing of the country’s powerful army in the case.

Pervez Musharraf, 70, said the “whole army” was upset with the treason allegations, in his first comments to international media since he was put under house arrest in April.

The treason claims are the latest and potentially most serious in a flurry of criminal cases relating to Mr Musharraf’s nine-year rule that he has faced since returning to Pakistan in March.

The case could put the government on course for a clash with the army, threatening further instability at a time when the country is struggling with a home-grown Taliban insurgency, a chronic energy crisis and a stagnant economy.

The military, which has ruled Pakistan for more than half of its 66-year history, has not made any direct public comment on the case. But it is thought to be reluctant to have its former chief suffer the indignity of trial by a civilian court.

“I would say the whole army is upset. I have led the army from the front,” Mr Musharraf said at his farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad.

“I have no doubt with the feedback that I received that the whole army is... totally with me on this issue.”

The treason charges relate to Mr Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule in November 2007, and if found guilty he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment.

The case is due to resume on Wednesday, but Mr Musharraf said he had not yet decided whether he would attend.

“The way this tribunal was formed, which involved the prime minister and the ex-chief justice, this itself smacks a little bit of a vendetta,” he said.

* Agence France-Presse