ISLAMABAD, Dec 20 — Exiled former Pakistan military leader Pervez Musharraf has dismissed the unprecedented treason conviction and death sentence handed to him earlier this week as the result of a “personal vendetta”.
Musharraf’s criticism of the verdict came as the release of the court’s detailed verdict sparked controversy, with one judge calling for the former general’s “corpse” to be publicly hanged if he died before being apprehended.
The decision, announced on Tuesday by a special court, marked the first time a former leader of the armed forces has been convicted of treason and sentenced to death in Pakistan, where the military wields enormous power and has ruled the country for roughly half its history.
“This case was taken up and proceeded due to a personal vendetta by some people against me,” said Musharraf in a video statement released by his assistant on Wednesday.
A frail-looking Musharraf — who is reportedly in Dubai and in poor health — appeared in a hospital bed in the video, straining to speak.
Musharraf said, however, that he remained undecided on his next move or whether his legal team was planning to appeal.
Hours after his statement, some of the aggressive language and prescriptions in the 169-page judgement kicked off another storm.
“We direct the Law Enforcement Agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to... Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days,” read the judgement.
The military’s spokesman later panned the court’s directive in a televised press conference, calling the verdict “repugnant to humanity”.
The treason case — which began in 2013 and is one of several involving Musharraf — centred on his decision to suspend the constitution and impose emergency rule in 2007.
The ruling has infuriated Pakistan’s security establishment, with the military spokesman swiftly condemning the verdict and saying the armed forces were in “pain and anguish” over the decision.
“An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor,” the military said on Tuesday.
Prime Minister Imran Khan has stayed largely quiet on the ruling.
Once a harsh critic and opponent of Musharraf, Khan is broadly considered to be pro-military and several of his ministers previously served in the former general’s government.
Pakistan’s Attorney General Anwar Mansoor told AFP yesterday that his office was planning to challenge the ruling.
Rise and fall
Musharraf took power in 1999 after ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharif in a bloodless coup.
The cigar-smoking, whisky-drinking general became a vital American ally in the “war on terror” after the September 11 attacks and escaped at least three Al-Qaeda assassination attempts during his nine years in office.
His rule faced no serious challenges until he tried to sack the Supreme Court chief justice in March 2007, sparking nationwide protests and months of turmoil that led to the imposition of emergency rule.
After the December 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the national mood plunged further and Musharraf was left increasingly isolated by the crushing losses suffered by his allies in February 2008 elections.
He finally resigned in August 2008 in the face of impeachment proceedings by the new governing coalition and went into exile.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan in 2013 in an attempt to contest elections, but was barred from taking part in the polls and from leaving the country as a barrage of legal cases mounted.
The treason case against him was first launched by his old foe Sharif in 2013.
It went on for years with repeated delays until Tuesday’s surprise announcement. — AFP