By Cody Roark
High treason, not a charge most of us hear very often, but that is the charge being held against Pervez Musharraf, former President and military ruler of Pakistan. This charge is following a six-year legal case pending since 2013.
Musharraf gained control of Pakistan following a military coup in 1999 and stayed in power until 2008. He was indicted on multiple charges in 2014 including subverting, changing the country’s constitution, and imposing emergency rule when unnecessary. This will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that any army chief will have been tried and found guilty of high treason. This is a crime that, according to Pakistani law, carries the punishment of death or life imprisonment. Pervez Musharraf has received the punishment of death by a court ruling of two to one.
Musharraf fled to Dubai, in the United Arab Emirates, to seek medical treatment in 2016. He still currently resides there. The former military ruler made a video statement from the hospital claiming his innocence in the case. He is quoted saying, “I have served my country for 10 years. I have fought for my country. This [treason] is the case in which I have not been heard and I have been victimized.”
The timeline for what Pakistan’s former President is being charged with is as follows. In 2007, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan’s constitution, replaced the chief judge, then shutdown the independent TV outlets. Musharraf claims he did this to stabilize the country by combating Islamic extremism that was becoming an issue within the country. Pakistanis openly called for his removal after taking these actions.
Musharraf eventually lifted the state of emergency and called for elections, however they did not do well for him. The process of impeachment had begun by 2008 and Musharraf resigned, rather than face impeachment. Prosecutors say Musharraf violated Pakistan’s constitution by imposing the state of emergency. Musharraf left Pakistan after stepping down as President.
He did not return until 2013, despite threats of assassination and arrest if he returned. He arranged for bail before actually returning to attempt another run in politics. He was denied a bail extension and was then arrested. Eventually, the travel ban on Pervez Musharraf was lifted and he exiled himself to Dubai, awaiting the conclusion of his high treason trial.
The conclusion to said trial being the death penalty. Pakistani opinion on the outcome of the trial is mixed, however the court has made it very clear that Musharraf violated the country’s constitution. Therefore, he committed high treason under Pakistani law. Musharraf does have the opportunity to appeal the verdict if he so chooses.