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Pakistan court sentences former ruler to death in treason case

General Pervez Musharraf has been out of the country since 2016, when he was allowed to leave on bail to seek medical treatment abroad.

General Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death (BK Bangash/AP)
General Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death (BK Bangash/AP)

By Munir Ahmed, Associated Press Reporter

A court in Pakistan has sentenced the country’s former military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, to death.

The sentence comes after a treason case related to the state of emergency he imposed in 2007 while in power, officials said.

It is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former army chief and ruler of the country has been sentenced to death.

Gen Musharraf, who was sentenced in absentia, has been out of the country since 2016, when he was allowed to leave on bail to seek medical treatment abroad.

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General Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death (Anjum Naveed/AP)

He has been living in Dubai in the United Arab Emirates and is said to be very ill and unlikely to travel home to face the sentence.

Pakistan and the UAE have no extradition treaty and Emirati authorities are unlikely to arrest Gen Musharraf. If he was to return, however, he would have the right to challenge his conviction and sentence in court.

The ruling by a three-judge panel was not unanimous and one of the judges had opposed the death sentence, according to Akhtar Shah, one of the lawyers for Gen Musharraf.

Mr Shah said: “Musharraf today sent me a message, saying he is ready to come to Pakistan but his doctors are not allowing him to travel.

He added that Gen Musharraf offered to give a statement to the court through a video link, but the request was denied.

A senior Supreme Court lawyer, Hamid Ali Khan, hailed the verdict as long overdue. “For the first time in the history of Pakistan … a military dictator has been punished by a court of law,” he said.

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Akhtar Shah, a lawyer for former Pakistani military ruler Pervez Musharraf, talks to the media (AP)

After the sentence was announced, Pakistan’s information minister, Firdous Ashiq Awan, told reporters that Prime Minister Imran Khan’s government would “review in detail” the verdict before commenting on it.

Pakistan’s military denounced the death sentence, saying it was “received with lot of pain and anguish” by defence forces. The statement said that Gen Musharraf, “who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country, can surely never be a traitor”.

The military said “due legal process seems to have been ignored”, highlighting that Gen Musharraf was not allowed to present a defence.

In an infamous purge in 2007, Gen Musharraf imposed a state of emergency and placed several key judges under house arrest in the capital, Islamabad and elsewhere in Pakistan. He came to power after ousting former prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 bloodless coup.

Later, when he was back in office, Mr Sharif first accused Gen Musharraf of treason in 2013 and the general was formally charged in 2014.

Mr Sharif himself was ousted in 2017 and was later convicted of corruption. He left Pakistan on bail earlier this month to travel to London for medical treatment.

Mr Sharif’s spokesman, Ahsan Iqbal, praised the ruling, saying Gen Musharraf deserved the death sentence because he had ousted an elected government.

PA

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