Pakistan's Former Military Ruler Sentenced To Death By Hanging For High Treason

The 76-year-old former president and military ruler of Pakistan, Pervez Musharraf, has been issued a controversial death sentence in absentia following a six-year court case.

He was convicted on "high treason" by a three-member special court in Islamabad this week due to "unlawfully declaring emergency rule" during his years in power. His rule began in 1999 by military coup, where he declared himself president until 2008.

General Pervez Musharraf, file image

Crucially, the case sets a major precedent given General Musharraf is the first ever army chief in the country to be tried and convicted of treason, after an initial indictment which included imposing unlawful emergency rule, subverting Pakistan's constitution, and firing Pakistan's chief justice.

Treason in Pakistan carries a stiff sentence of either life imprisonment or capital punishment with the only legal execution method being by hanging. However, Musharraf is unlikely to ever face execution given he's lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2016.

At that time his travel ban had been temporarily lifted so he could seek medical treatment in the UAE, but from which he never returned. In a televised statement from a UAE hospital room the former Pakistani leader condemned the ruling and sentencing as "baseless" and said

"I am being victimized as I have not been heard," according to his reaction immediately after the verdict.

Pervez Musharraf giving a statement from his UAE hospital bed. Screenshot via Gulf News.

The Tuesday ruling remains deeply controversial, given Pakistan's powerful military generals have stuck behind his legacy. Pakistan's Armed Forces issued an official statement in the wake of the ruling, saying it had been received "with a lot of pain and anguish." The media statement also declared Musharraf "can surely never be a traitor" due to his serving his country for over four decades. 

"The due legal process seems to have been ignored including (the) constitution of special court, (the) denial of fundamental right of self-defense, undertaking individual specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste," the statement said.

Musharraf previously said his actions were necessary in order to "stabilize" the country as it was under threat from Islamic extremists, and that fundamentalists had to be rooted out as a matter of national security.