A special court in Pakistan Tuesday found former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf guilty of high treason and sentenced him to death.
This was the first time a military dictator was tried and convicted in court in Pakistan. Musharraf, who is currently receiving medical treatment in Dubai, came to power through a military coup in 1999. His initial actions received legal cover by the judiciary and subsequently the parliament. It was his imposition of the state of emergency in 2007 that led to the charges against him.
The case has been dragging through the courts since 2014 when Musharraf was indicted. In 2016, he was allowed to leave the country for medical treatment, under what many believe was pressure from the country’s powerful military.
He was asked by the judiciary to return and record his testimony multiple times but cited medical reasons for not being able to do so. Earlier this month, from a hospital in Dubai, Musharraf expressed distrust in the judicial process and said he was being victimized. The major opposition parties in the country hailed the decision as a bulwark against future military coups. Pakistan has spent more than half of its existence under direct military rule.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, leader of opposition Pakistan People’s Party, and son of Pakistan’s slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, wrote on his Twitter account: “Democracy is the best revenge.”
The government, considered close to the military, did not issue an official statement. However, one government minister expressed his reservations about the decision.
“We need to unite the country. Why take decisions that divide the nation and its institutions?” wrote Fawad Chaudhry, the minister for science and technology.
Political analysts say carrying out the sentence however, may not be easy in a country where the military is still considered to be the most powerful institution.
#Musharraf started trending on Twitter in Pakistan soon after the decision became public.
“I oppose death penalty even for criminals like Musharraf. Yet, this decision is imp since it challenges the history of impunity for Generals,” wrote activist Ammar Ali Jan.
“Whatever is happening with him, I think this would be a miscarriage of justice in the history of Pak. What he did on 3rd Nov 2007, was it a right or wrong move, that's debatable,” Tweeted retired army general Ghulam Mustafa.