Musharraf faces trial for high treason: Nawaz Sharif

Pakistan's new prime minister Nawaz Sharif has brought the civilian government in direct conflict with the country's powerful army, saying his government would prosecute the country's former military dictator, Gen Pervez Musharraf, for high treason, a crime which carries the death penalty.

Sharif made the announcement in the National Assembly, or lower house of parliament, less than three weeks after returning as the country's prime minister, following his PML-N party's victory in the general election.

Referring to Musharraf's decision to impose emergency rule in 2007 when Sharif was the prime minister, he said, Musharraf's actions came under the purview of "high treason".

The statement comes at a time when the army headed by Musharraf's nominee Gen Pervez Kiyani is believed to have been quietly lobbying for the release of the 69-year-old former army chief, currently under house arrest.

"The federal government firmly subscribes to the view that the holding in abeyance of the Constitution on November 3, 2007 constituted an act of high treason within the meaning of Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan," Sharif said.

Pakistan's attorney general also simultaneously delivered the same message in the Supreme Court.

The prime minister is under oath to protect and defend the Constitution and "it is implicit in this oath that his government ensures that persons guilty of acts under Article 6 are brought to justice", he said.

Reading from a statement presented by Attorney General Munir Malik, Sharif said, "Notwithstanding the fact that the prime minister has borne the brunt of Musharraf's brazen coup, he wishes to assure both this august court and the people of Pakistan that he will act according to the highest standards of justice and follow the due process of law."

Meanwhile, in a bid to counterbalance the army, Sharif is reported to have invited Taliban commanders for talks.

"Musharraf violated the constitution twice. He overthrew an elected government in 1999 and put everything into jeopardy. He sacked judges and imprisoned them," said Sharif.

Musharraf, however, secured bail in another case related to sacking judges and in connection with the 2007 murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, but remains under house arrest over the 2006 killing of a Baluch rebel leader.

Musharraf is barred from leaving Pakistan as of now, abut his legal team is seeking permission for him to visit his ailing mother in Dubai, raising the prospect of an escape route.