Former military ruler of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf was indicted by a special court for high treason on Monday, a crime that carries either the death penalty or life in prison. Musharraf is facing five charges of treason for his time as president from 1999 when he took power after a coup until 2008 when he went on a self-imposed exile in London, and later ended in Dubai until he returned to Pakistan to run the country’s elections. The case focuses specifically on 2007 when he suspended Pakistan’s constitution during a “state of emergency” which he claimed would stabilize the country and fight back against Islamist extremists.
During court on Monday, Musharraf denied that he was a traitor, claiming that during his time as president, Pakistan grew and progressed. However, due to pressure from Western nations, Musharraf lifted the constitutional suspension and held elections in which his party failed badly. Musharraf vacated the presidency in 2008 after opposition leaders planned to impeach him for the constitutional suspension and declared state of emergency.
Due to health issues, the former Pakistani leader has missed several court dates. The 70-year-old Musharraf if recovering from treatment for high blood pressure as well. Since the trial began in December, there have also been delays due to security issues.
If convicted of treason for suspending Pakistan’s constitution in 2007, Musharraf faces the death penalty. However, Musharraf claims that he has done nothing wrong saying, “Where is there justice for me?” Musharraf further stated, “I have only given to this country and not taken anything” and that when it comes down to it, he would rather die than surrender.
Musharraf’s attorneys however, are confident that the former ruler is not guilty, but are wary of a fair trial under current prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whom Musharraf deposed in 1999. Also, the court in which the trial is taking place helped lead protesters that lead to Musharraf’s resignation and self-imposed exile in 2008.
The treason in question was Musharraf’s suspension on the constitution in 2007 that he hoped would extend his rule, and according to him, help unify Pakistan. Musharraf claims that this attempt was made after he consulted his cabinet and that the government agreed to it. He also pointed out that none of his former cabinet were on trial for treason with him.
This trial marks the first time in Pakistan’s history that a current or former military leader has stood trial for treason since the country was founded in 1947. Since then, the military has taken power three times by way of coups. This case also sheds light on the current tension between the Pakistani military, which is typically above the law, and the civilian government.
Musharraf has pleaded not guilty to all five indications of high treason and during court on Monday, gave a 30-minute defense of his term as president. During his speech in court, Musharraf claimed that he is not a traitor and that he brought Pakistan to a path of progress after the country was being called a failure. Musharraf returned to Pakistan in March to run the national elections held in May, but was bared from participation due to his time in office and numerous legal actions against him.
By Nathaniel Pownell
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