Updated: December 19, 2019 9:12:06 am
A special court in Islamabad on Tuesday sentenced former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to death for high treason under Article 6 of Pakistan’s Constitution.
ARTICLE 6 says: “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution by use of force or show force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”
THE PUNISHMENT for high treason, as per Pakistan’s High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973, is death or life imprisonment.
AN APPEAL against the verdict will lie in Pakistan’s Supreme Court. Even if the top court upholds the special court’s verdict, the country’s President can pardon him under Article 45 of the constitution: “The President shall have power to grant pardon, reprieve and respite, and to remit, suspend or commute any sentence passed by any court, tribunal or other authority.” Pakistan’s army has already declared that Musharraf “can surely never be a traitor”, and that the “armed forces expect that justice will be dispensed in line with the constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan”. In any case, it is not expected that Musharraf, who is in self-imposed exile in Dubai, will return to Pakistan to carry the case through to the end.
THE CASE against Musharraf began in December 2013, six months after Nawaz Sharif, whom the general had ousted in 1999, returned to power. He was charged with treason for having imposed an emergency in November 2007 and arresting several judges, and was indicted in March 2014. As the trial negotiated several twists and turns and passed through delays, Musharraf left Pakistan in March 2016 for treatment.
THE VERDICT was reserved by the special court on November 19. The court said it would give its judgment on November 28; however, Pakistan’s government petitioned the Islamabad High Court asking that “the special court be restrained from passing final judgment in the trial”. The High Court temporarily restrained the special court from pronouncing its verdict, and asked the government to notify a new prosecution team. This team appeared before the special court on December 5, and was told that it would be heard on December 17, after which the verdict would be pronounced.
THE EXTRAORDINARY development, even if largely symbolic, marks the first time that a military dictator in Pakistan — a country that has been ruled by the generals for more than half its life — has been held accountable for his actions in power. Sharif, who stood up the most to the army among all Pakistani politicians, sought to use the treason case to assert civilian supremacy.
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