Pakistan’s former military dictator Gen Pervez Musharraf has been sentenced to death for suspending the constitution during his rule, setting up another clash between the military and Pakistan’s judges.
The verdict in his long-running high treason trial was immediately welcomed by opposition parties as an affirmation of civilian supremacy, but denounced by his former comrades in the powerful military.
The 76-year-old fled the country three years ago, heading to Dubai for medical treatment and was sentenced in his absence.
His conviction sets up another confrontation between the military and judges, less than a month after the supreme court briefly blocked an attempt by the chief of army staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, to extend his term.
A statement from the military’s information wing said Gen Musharraf’s conviction had “been received with a lot of pain and anguish by the rank and file of Pakistan armed forces”.
The courts had failed to follow due process and denied Gen Musharraf the chance to mount his defence it claimed.
While Gen Musharraf has the right to appeal and his sentence cannot be enforced if he continues his self-imposed exile, the ruling was widely seen as a significant challenge to military power.
Click Here: Cheap FIJI Rugby Jersey
Gen Musharraf was chief of the army staff when he seized power in 1999, deposing the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He later declared himself president and in 2007 enforced a state of emergency and suspended the constitution as he faced protests to his rule following his attempt to remove the chief justice.
The ruling would held constrain the military and had “secured our future generations”, said Sen Pervaiz Rashid, an aide to Mr Sharif.
Umer Karim, of the Royal United Services Institute, said the ruling appeared to continue last month’s confrontation with the military over Gen Bajwa’s extension. Gen Bajwa was later granted a six month extension and parliament was given the task of ruling on the legality of a longer posting.
“ Today’s ruling will further make things worse between the two institutions,” he said.
He said the special court hearing Gen Musharraf’s case would likely have consulted with other senior members of the judiciary before handing down the verdict. “I think the judiciary wants to assert itself.”
Gen Musharraf did not immediately respond to his sentencing. In a video recorded earlier this month from his hospital bed in Dubai he complained about his health and said the case against him was baseless.
"This case in my view is absolutely baseless because leave aside [the charge of] being a traitor, I have served my country … I have fought wars. In this case I’m not being heard.
"My lawyer is not being heard. In my view, this is an injustice. The procedures of justice are not being followed," he said.
Gen Musharraf was a key American and Nato ally during his rule, allowing Western forces to use Pakistan as a supply corridor during the Afghanistan campaign.
He was also accused of being part of a wider conspiracy to murder Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated in 2007. He denied the charge, but was declared a fugitive by judges investigating her death.