Pakistan's military swiftly slammed the special court's ruling, saying in a statement that the armed forces were in "pain and anguish" over the decision.

Pakistan's former President, Pervez Musharraf, addresses his supporters upon his arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi March 24, 2013.
Pakistan's former President, Pervez Musharraf, addresses his supporters upon his arrival from Dubai at Jinnah International airport in Karachi March 24, 2013. (Reuters Archive)

A Pakistan court on Tuesday sentenced former military ruler Pervez Musharraf in absentia to death for treason, state media reported, an unprecedented move in a country where the armed forces are often considered immune from prosecution.

"Special Court Islamabad has awarded death sentence to former President Pervez Musharraf in a high treason case," Radio Pakistan tweeted.

The case centres around Musharraf’s decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule in 2007, according to his lawyer, Akhtar Shah.

The controversial move ultimately sparked protests against Musharraf, leading to his resignation in the face of impeachment proceedings.

Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile ever since a travel ban was lifted in 2016 that allowed him to seek medical treatment abroad.

The 76-year-old has since spent most of his time between Dubai and London.

"Musharraf wanted to record his statement and was ready to visit Pakistan but he wanted foolproof security which was not provided," lawyer Shah said. "He is still in Dubai and sick."

TRT World spoke to journalist Kamran Yousaf for more.

Military slams the sentence

The verdict drew swift condemnation from the country's armed forces which have ruled the country for almost half its 72-year history.

The court's decision marks the first time a former leader of the armed forces has been convicted of treason and sentenced to death in Pakistan, where the military maintains strong influence and senior officers are often considered immune from prosecution.

Pakistan's military swiftly slammed the special court's ruling, saying in a statement that the armed forces were in "pain and anguish" over the decision.

"An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has serv ed the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defense of the country can surely never be a traitor," the military said in a statement, adding the legal process "seems to have been ignored".

Death sentence

A three-member bench of the special court, headed by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, delivered the verdict in the high treason case.

In March 2014, Musharraf was charged with high treason for implementing emergency rule and suspending the constitution in 2007.

In August 2017, he was declared an "absconder" by Pakistan's anti-terrorism court in the verdict on the 2007 murder of Benazir Bhutto, a two-time prime minister.

The court, in its short order on Tuesday, said after analysing complaints, records, arguments and facts in the case for three months that it found Musharraf guilty of high treason in accordance with Article 6 of the Pakistan constitution.

It was a majority verdict, with two of the three judges making the decision against Musharraf.

Musharraf, who was born in India's capital New Delhi but moved with his family to Pakistan at partition, took power after ousting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup in 1999.

A cigar-smoking, whisky-drinking moderate, the general became a key US ally in the "war on terror" and escaped at least three Al Qaeda assassination attempts during his nine years in office.

His rule faced no serious challenges until he tried to sack the chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of a state of emergency.

After the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the national mood soured further and he was left isolated by the crushing losses suffered by his allies in February 2008 elections.

Musharraf finally in resigned in August 2008 the face of impeachment proceedings by the new governing coalition and went into exile.

He returned in 2013 in an attempt to contest elections but was barred from taking part in the polls and from leaving the country while facing a barrage of legal cases.

Tuesday’s ruling is the latest court decision to target Musharraf.

In 2017, a Pakistani court pronounced Musharraf a fugitive in the murder trial of Bhutto – the first woman prime minister of a Muslim country.

The anti-terrorism court has branded Musharraf an absconder and ordered the confiscation of his property.

Musharraf is alleged to have been part of a broad conspiracy to have his political rival killed before elections. He has denied the allegation.

Reactions

Following the court’s decision Tuesday, Bhutto’s son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari tweeted: "Democracy is the best revenge".

Activist Jibran Nasir highlighted the fact that Imran Khan's government had made several attempts at delaying the verdict's announcement, that the bench hearing the case had noted that such a "request means the government doesn't have the right intentions.

Several people, including journalists, saw the verdict as a victory for the country.

But several of Musharraf's colleagues and sub-ordinates belonging to the armed forces as well as supporters belonging to civil society expressed their satisfaction with the court's ruling.

Meanwhile the verdict also caused a flurry of speculative and skeptical tweets,

Source: TRTWorld and agencies