Musharraf to face trial for treason

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Pakistan’s government plans to put former President Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason.

Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan said yesterday that the government would put 
Mr Musharraf on trial under Article Six of the constitution for declaring a state of emergency in 2007 and suspending the constitution.

Mr Khan said the government would send a letter to the Supreme Court today asking that treason proceedings begin.

Mr Khan said: “Gen. Musharraf is accountable to the nation and the constitution.”

The interior minister insisted that the government’s decision to put the former president on trial for treason was not a personal vendetta by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who was toppled in a military coup by Mr Musharraf in 1999.

If the case goes ahead, Mr Musharraf would become the first military ruler tried for treason in a country that has experienced three military coups in its 66-year history.

He could face the death penalty or life in prison if he is convicted of treason.

Mr Musharraf returned to Pakistan earlier this year.

The government had announced in June that it wanted to try the former military ruler, but had yet to submit a formal complaint.

Mr Musharraf, who is also facing charges over a 2007 army operation to remove militants from the Red Mosque in Islamabad, which left more than 100 dead, including a cleric, and helped spark Islamist unrest, faces charges of murder in connection with the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto and Baloch rebel tribal leader Nawab Akbar Bugti.

Mr Musharraf has also been charged over his attempts to sack senior judiciary five years 
ago.

The government’s request that he be tried for treason comes just over a week after he was released from house arrest following the granting of bail.

Mr Musharraf denies all the charges against him and says they are politically motivated.

He came to power in 1999 after ousting Mr Sharif in a bloodless coup.

Five years after leaving power, he returned from self-imposed exile in March to contest a general election.

Mr Sharif won that election, giving him a third term as prime minister.

Mr Musharraf has suffered numerous setbacks since setting foot in his home country.

In a public insult only days 
after his return, a shoe was thrown at him in a court building in Karachi.

He was also put under house arrest in April and banned from taking part in the election.

Despite the fact that he has been granted bail, the former general is prohibited from leaving Pakistan, although he has said he does not intend to leave.

Meanwhile, at the weekend the Pakistani government imposed a rare curfew in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, next to the capital Islamabad, following sectarian clashes during a Shiite religious commemoration that killed seven Sunni Muslims.

Residents were ordered to stay in their homes until further notice, according to Shoaib Bin Aziz, an official with the government of Punjab province.

Soldiers and police were patrolling the streets to impose the curfew.

The seven Sunnis were killed on Friday in a clash with Shiites 
who were holding a procession to mark Ashoura, one of the sect’s most important religious occasions.

Police officer Mohammad Wasim said 35 other people were wounded. Shiites set fire to dozens of shops in anger.

Fire department official Mohammad Mazhar said two Shiite mosques were set on fire overnight.