Pakistan’s new Prime Minister has said he plans to prosecute the man who ousted him from power in a military coup in 1999 for treason – a crime that carries a maximum penalty of death by hanging.
Nawaz Sharif told parliament that the former military ruler Pervez Musharraf should be held accountable for imposing a state of emergency in 2007, when he sacked the Chief Justice, put scores of judges under house arrest, and detained lawyers and opposition politicians.
Mr Sharif has become the first Pakistani leader to be voted back into office, following general elections held in May.
“Musharraf will have to answer for his guilt before the court,” said Mr Sharif, adding that by suspending the constitution in November 2007, Mr Musharraf was responsible for an “act of high treason”.
Mr Musharraf is now under house arrest in his villa outside Islamabad, possibly facing the same charges that he once advanced against Mr Sharif.
He returned to Pakistan in March after years in exile in London and Dubai, intending to run in the election. The former dictator was disqualified, and has been forced to shuffle from court to court trying in vain to secure bail. He is accused in three separate cases, and has been formally arrested in one of them.
The prospect of a former army commander being handcuffed is likely to upset Pakistan’s powerful generals. Over the past five years, the army chief General Ashfaq Kayani has tried to appear supportive of democracy and remained neutral when it came to the recent elections.
Mr Musharraf can only be tried for treason if the government presses charges against him, but Mr Sharif’s move will not meet much political resistance. The opposition Pakistan People’s Party of President Asif Ali Zardari and Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf both took to the streets against Mr Musharraf when he imposed the 2007 emergency.