Pakistan to put Musharraf on trial for high treason

The travails seem unending for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf since his return to the country some seven months ago.

Pervez MusharrafOn Sunday, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government announced that it will put the former president on trial for high treason for declaring a state of emergency and suspending the constitution while in power.

Interior minister Chaudhry Nisar told a press conference in Islamabad that the government will move to try Musharraf for treason under Article 6 of the constitution.

Musharraf, a former army chief, would be the first military ruler tried for treason in a country that has experienced three military coups in its 66-year history. He could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of treason, but a question remains whether the country's powerful army actually will let that happen. Musharraf has maintained his innocence.

The move comes a week after Musharraf was granted bail in all cases pending against him, fuelling speculation that he would soon leave the country.

However, on Sunday the interior minister told reporters that proceedings against the former Pakistan president would begin from Monday onward. He said a three-member bench of the Supreme Court would hear the case and that the government is also expected to announce a special prosecutor for the case.

Earlier this month, Musharraf had won a reprieve after a local court approved his bail in a murder case, the latest of a string of cases that he was facing after he returned to Pakistan.

Musharraf has so far spent over seven months in detention in his own house, which was declared a sub-jail.

The government made its decision after an investigating committee formed under the direction of the Supreme Court collected enough evidence for a trial, Khan said.

"Gen. Musharraf is accountable to the nation and the constitution," he said.

He specifically mentioned Musharraf's decision to suspend senior judges, including the chief justice of the Supreme Court, and detain them after he declared a state of emergency on 3 November 2007. He was apparently concerned they would challenge his re-election as president.

"The constitution was ruined and violated," Khan said. "The judiciary was humiliated. Judges were manhandled physically, confined along with family and children."

The interior minister insisted that the government's decision to put the former president on trial for treason was not a personal vendetta by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was toppled in a military coup by Musharraf in 1999.

The government didn't indicate it would press charges against Musharraf for his coup, perhaps because the move was retroactively approved by the Supreme Court and parliament at the time.

The prime minister said in June that the government intended to try Musharraf for treason, but would consult with other political parties on the move. Senior lawmakers from the two main opposition parties expressed their support for the government's plan to try Musharraf at the time.