In a double whammy, former dictator Pervez Musharraf was today indicted by a court on five counts of high treason and his plea to travel abroad rejected as he became Pakistan’s first ever military ruler to face criminal prosecution that entails death penalty.
Musharraf, who personally appeared in the special court for the second time since proceedings began in December, pleaded “not guilty” to all the charges against him read out by Justice Tahira Safdar of the Balochistan High Court.
The high-profile treason case against the 70-year-old former president is seen as a setback for the country’s powerful army that apparently looked like moving to protect Musharraf when he was shifted to a military hospital in early January.
Musharraf is accused of treason for suspending, subverting and abrogating the Constitution, imposing an emergency in the country in November 2007 and detaining judges of superior courts.
If found guilty, he faces the death sentence or life imprisonment.
Reading out from his notes, Musharraf said that he gave 44 years of his life to the Pakistan Army and made defence invincible. He said he gave repute and progress to the country.
“I honour this court and prosecution, I strongly believe in law, I don’t have ego problems and I have appeared in court 16 times in this year in Karachi, Islamabad and Rawalpindi,” Musharraf said.
“I am being called a traitor, I have been chief of army staff for nine years and I have served this army for 45 years. I have fought two wars and it is treason?,” he questioned.
Prosecutor Akram Sheikh in reply said he has never used the word “traitor”.
Amid tight security, the three-judge bench headed by Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court read out the indictment against Musharraf.
Prior to the indictment, Farogh Naseem, a new lawyer in Musharraf’s defence team, requested the court to allow the former president to travel to the UAE to meet his 95-year-old ailing mother.
Rejecting his application for seeking permission to travel abroad, the special court ruled that it did not have the powers to do so as it was functioning under a specific law.
Musharraf came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposing then-prime minister Nawaz Sharif.
Musharraf, facing impeachment following elections in 2008, resigned as president and went into self-imposed exile in Dubai.