ISLAMABAD – Gen. Pervez Musharraf, the former Pakistani military ruler and key U.S. ally after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, will be tried for treason, Pakistan’s interior minister said Sunday. Musharraf could face the death penalty if convicted.
Musharraf would be the first of Pakistan’s military dictators to stand trial for subverting the country’s democratic constitution, a charge that stems not from his October 1999 ouster of the elected government but from his imposition of a state of emergency in November 2007 to fire rebellious judges who outlawed his attempt to dismiss the country’s chief justice.
The interior minister, Nisar Ali Khan, said the country’s current prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, who was also prime minister when Musharraf seized power, had decided not to prosecute Musharraf for the 1999 coup because he had “forgiven” the general.
“This is not an act of revenge,” he said.
Musharraf’s fate has formed a dramatic backdrop for Pakistan’s political discourse since his return to the country in March to run in May elections.
Musharraf, the country’s top military officer when he overthrew Sharif, had been advised not to return. The country’s courts later ruled he could not seek office, and prosecutors announced investigations into his role in a number of controversial events that took place during his nine-year rule, including the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
He was placed under house arrest in April, but was allowed to post bail just 10 days ago, though he was barred from leaving the country.
Pakistani political analysts said they still doubt that Musharraf will be prosecuted, citing the country’s long history of military interference. Musharraf was the latest of four military rulers who’ve seized power from elected governments in the country’s 66-year history.