Pakistan’s premier said Monday that the military ruler who ousted him in a coup over a decade ago should be tried for treason, but the government stopped short of pressing official charges.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif spoke in parliament as the Supreme Court held a hearing on a possible treason case against Pervez Musharraf. The former military ruler can only be tried for treason if the federal government presses charges against him.
Sharif said the government agrees with the Supreme Court’s decision that Musharraf committed treason under Article 6 of the constitution when he declared a state of emergency in 2007 and suspended the constitution. Trying Musharraf for treason could set up a clash with the country’s powerful army.
“The prime minister is under oath to protect, preserve and defend the constitution and it is implicit in his oath that his government ensures that persons guilty of acts under Article 6 are brought to justice,” Sharif said in parliament.
The premier was reading from a statement that was submitted to the Supreme Court by Attorney General Munir Malik on Monday. The statement did not mention Musharraf’s ouster of Sharif in a coup in 1999 when he was serving as army chief, perhaps because the move was approved by the Supreme Court and parliament at the time.
“Musharraf has to answer all his deeds in court,” Sharif said in a separate part of the speech.
But the government stopped short of actually pressing charges against Musharraf and said it will consult with other political parties on the matter, leaving open the possibility that it could still choose to abandon the case at some point in the future. Musharraf would be the first military ruler tried for treason in a country that has experienced three military coups in its nearly 66-year history.
“The federal government will proceed in accordance with the law and also take political forces into confidence through a consultative process so that the collective will and wisdom of the people of Pakistan is duly reflected in further process in this behalf.”
Musharraf, who is currently under house arrest in connection with a separate case, could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of treason. But many analysts doubt the army, which is considered the country’s most powerful institution, would allow that to happen and could intervene to prevent it. Musharraf has maintained his innocence.