Pakistan’s Top Court Summons Musharraf for Treason Hearing

Pakistan’s top court ordered former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to appear before judges tomorrow as they consider petitions seeking to prosecute the ex-general for treason, just weeks before he attempts a political comeback at a general election.

A two-member bench headed by Supreme Court Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja ordered Musharraf be summoned, Hamid Khan, a lawyer representing one of the petitioners, told reporters after today’s proceedings. The pleas aim to put Musharraf on trial over his decision to impose emergency rule in 2007. Pakistan’s Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry was deposed and kept under house arrest after Musharraf suspended the constitution.

A trial may reignite tension between the judiciary and the army in a country where generals behind three coups have never been punished before the law.

“Musharraf’s acts of 2007 have already been declared unconstitutional by the courts,” Taufiq Asif, a lawyer who has filed one of the petitions, said by phone yesterday. “He is guilty of high treason and must be arrested.”

The former military commando quit the president’s office in 2008 after Pakistan’s parliament threatened to bring impeachment charges against him, citing the illegal seizure of power the year before and alleged economic mismanagement.

Musharraf left Pakistan and only returned from exile last month, vowing to contest the May 11 ballot at the head of his All Pakistan Muslim League party. Officials in one of the four constituencies he planned to fight yesterday approved his candidacy.

1999 Coup

Asif Ali Zardari, who succeeded Musharraf as president, last month led the first civilian administration in the nation’s history to complete its full term and prepare to hand over power to another elected government through a poll.

Musharraf ousted the government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif in a 1999 bloodless coup after a dispute over support for Pakistan-backed militants occupying Indian-controlled territory in the Kargil region of Kashmir. He became a U.S. ally in the fight against al-Qaeda and Taliban militants after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks on Washington and New York.

Prior to his March return to Pakistan, Musharraf’s party secured a bail agreement to prevent his arrest on charges of illegally detaining judges and failing to provide adequate security for Zardari’s spouse and former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto before her 2007 assassination.

While election officials rejected Musharraf’s nomination papers to contest from Karachi, Kasur district and the capital Islamabad, he has been allowed to compete from the northwestern district of Chitral, the Geo television channel reported.

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