Pakistan's former leader Pervez Musharraf pleads not guilty to high treason

Charges carry the death penalty, should the trial proceed that far

Asia Correspondent

A court in Pakistan has rejected a plea from former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to travel abroad to visit his ailing mother after he appeared to deny charges of high treason.

In a development that underscored the fall from grace the former dictator has suffered since he returned to Pakistan a year ago, a court in Islamabad formally indicted him on five counts.

It is the first time in Pakistan’s history, much of which has been dominated by army rule, that a military leader has faced such charges. They potentially carry the death penalty, should the trial proceed that far.

The 70-year-old’s lawyer, Farogh Naseem, told The Independent that his client had pleaded not guilty to the allegations put to him on Monday morning. He also said the court had made clear he was not being charged with treason in the normal sense but for alleged mis-governance and breach of the constitution. “He pleaded not guilty to all five charges,” he said.

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan in 2013 in order to contest in the general election held last May. Ignoring warnings from many sources that support for him on the ground was at best modest and that he faced a series of legal cases, he flew into Karachi only to see himself embroiled with those actions in various courts.

Since January, Mr Musharraf has been kept in a military hospital in the city of Rawalpindi having been taken there after complaining of chest pains while on route to a hearing. He apparently appeared in court in Monday against the advice of his doctors.

In court, Mr Musharraf stood and spoke for 30 minutes, defending his time as president and dismissing the allegations levelled at him.

“I am being called a traitor. I put the country on the path of progress after 1999 when the country was being called a failed and a defaulted state,” he said, according to the Associated Press. “Is this the way to reward someone for being loyal to the country and for loving the country?”

The former military leader seized power in 1999 when he led a coup against Nawaz Sharif, who was Pakistan’s Prime Minister at the time and who was reelected to that position last May. Mr Musharraf eventually resigned in the summer of 2008 and left Pakistan, spending much of his time in London and Dubai.

The allegations of high treason relate to his decision to declare a state of emergency in November 2007 and detain a number of judges, including the then chief justice Iftikhar Chaudhry.

The prosecution of Mr Musharraf marks a step into new, uncharted territory for Pakistan, where the army has always been seen as being largely untouchable. Even though senior officers warned Mr Musharraf not to return to Pakistan last year, the military will not want to see its former leader humiliated.

Mr Musharraf’s legal team on Monday had asked permission for the former ruler to be permitted to leave Pakistan to visit his 95-year-old mother, who is being treated in Sharjah, in the United Arab Emirates. It asked that his name be removed from the country’s so-called Exit Control List.

For months, there has been speculation that Mr Musharraf would leave Pakistan for his own medical reasons. As it was, the court denied the request, saying it was up to the government to decide if the former military ruler could leave.

While there are many many who wish to see him charged, the prosecution creates a potential headache for Pakistan’s establishment. There is speculation that once a trial starts, Mr Musharraf might “name names” when he addresses the court. Among those who could become implicated are former army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, who was vice chief of the army staff when Mr Musharraf imposed the emergency.

Many had believed his departure from Pakistan on medical grounds might defuse such a crisis.

“This means the trial will continue. It seems the government of Nawaz Sharif is intent on prosecuting him,” said Hasan-Askari Rizvi, a strategic analyst. “The military would like that he gets a safe exit. That way the story is closed.”

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Web Developer

£25000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital and print design a...

Recruitment Genius: Engineering Project Manager - Vehicle Design and Build

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: An Engineering Project Manager ...

Recruitment Genius: Network Support Engineer

£30000 - £40000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This leading manufacturer and i...

Recruitment Genius: Document Controller

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: A Document Controller is required to join a le...

Day In a Page

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza

Andrew Grice: Inside Westminster

Blairites be warned, this could be the moment Labour turns into Syriza
Jon Stewart: The voice of Democrats who felt Obama had failed to deliver on his 'Yes We Can' slogan, and the voter he tried hardest to keep onside

The voter Obama tried hardest to keep onside

Outgoing The Daily Show host, Jon Stewart, became the voice of Democrats who felt the President had failed to deliver on his ‘Yes We Can’ slogan. Tim Walker charts the ups and downs of their 10-year relationship on screen
A Very British Coup, part two: New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel

A Very British Coup, part two

New novel in pipeline as Jeremy Corbyn's rise inspires sequel
Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Philae lander data show comets could have brought 'building blocks of life' to Earth

Icy dust layer holds organic compounds similar to those found in living organisms
What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist? Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories

What turns someone into a conspiracy theorist?

Study to look at why some are more 'receptive' to such theories
Chinese web dissenters using coded language to dodge censorship filters and vent frustration at government

Are you a 50-center?

Decoding the Chinese web dissenters
The Beatles film Help, released 50 years ago, signalled the birth of the 'metrosexual' man

Help signalled birth of 'metrosexual' man

The Beatles' moptop haircuts and dandified fashion introduced a new style for the modern Englishman, says Martin King
Hollywood's new diet: Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?

Hollywood's new diet trends

Has LA stolen New York's crown as the ultimate foodie trend-setter?
6 best recipe files

6 best recipe files

Get organised like a Bake Off champion and put all your show-stopping recipes in one place
Ashes 2015: Steven Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Finn goes from being unselectable to simply unplayable

Middlesex bowler claims Ashes hat-trick of Clarke, Voges and Marsh
Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... for the fourth time

Mullah Omar, creator of the Taliban, is dead... again

I was once told that intelligence services declare their enemies dead to provoke them into popping up their heads and revealing their location, says Robert Fisk
Margaret Attwood on climate change: 'Time is running out for our fragile, Goldilocks planet'

Margaret Atwood on climate change

The author looks back on what she wrote about oil in 2009, and reflects on how the conversation has changed in a mere six years
New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered: What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week

New Dr Seuss manuscript discovered

What Pet Should I Get? goes on sale this week
Oculus Rift and the lonely cartoon hedgehog who could become the first ever virtual reality movie star

The cartoon hedgehog leading the way into a whole new reality

Virtual reality is the 'next chapter' of entertainment. Tim Walker gives it a try
Ants have unique ability to switch between individual and collective action, says study

Secrets of ants' teamwork revealed

The insects have an almost unique ability to switch between individual and collective action