General Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s former military ruler, has been sentenced to death for high treason over the imposition of a state of emergency during his final months in power, officials said.
Musharraf was sentenced in absentia and has been living in Dubai since 2016, after he was allowed to leave Pakistan on bail to seek medical treatment.
An ally of the west who ousted the democratically elected government of Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 military coup before naming himself president, Musharraf attempted to imprison several judges in 2007 in a desperate bid to extend his rule.
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He resigned in 2008 rather than face impeachment charges, but continues to claim some sympathies in Pakistan among those who cite his achievements in opening up the political establishment.
It is the first time a former army chief has been convicted of high treason in Pakistan, and Musharraf’s trial was followed closely by the powerful military establishment, aware that it sets a potentially significant precedent in a country with a track record for regular military coups.
One of Musharraf’s lawyers, Akhtar Sheikh, said the three-judge panel’s ruling was not unanimous and the death sentence was opposed by one of the judges.
Imran Khan’s government plans to review the verdict “in detail” before commenting, information minister Firdous Ashiq Awan told reporters after the sentence was announced.
Emirati authorities are unlikely to arrest Musharraf as Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates have no extradition treaty.
It was the ousted prime minister Sharif who launched the treason proceedings against Musharraf after he was re-elected in 2013.
Sharif was ousted from office again in 2017, and was later convicted of corruption. He left Pakistan on bail earlier this month to travel to London for medical treatment.
Sharif’s spokesperson, Ahsan Iqbal, praised Tuesday’s ruling, saying Musharraf deserved the death sentence because he had ousted an elected government.
Additional reporting by agencies