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Musharraf to face treason charges in Pakistan

From Shaista Aziz, CNN
November 17, 2013 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Pervez Musharraf returned to Pakistan this year after a self-imposed exile
  • He is the former president and military chief of the country
  • He could face death if convicted of treason
  • His spokeswoman says he believes his name will be cleared

Islamabad, Pakistan (CNN) -- Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will face charges of treason for his role in imposing emergency military rule six years ago, the country's interior minister said Sunday.

"I'm calling on the chief justice of Pakistan to appoint three high court judges to investigate former President Gen. Pervez Musharraf under Article 6 of the law," Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan told reporters, referring to a section of the constitution covering high treason.

Musharraf could face life in prison or receive the death penalty if he is found guilty of treason.

A spokeswoman for the former military ruler said he is willing to face all charges against him.

"Gen. Musharraf has full faith in the judiciary and trusts the legal system to clear his name," Aasia Ishaque told CNN by phone. "He is a man of his word, and he will let the court decide his fate."

The charges will be referred Monday and a special prosecutor to oversee the case will be selected, Khan said.

Musharraf's return

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has accused Musharraf of illegally abrogating the constitution in November 2007.

That month, Musharraf declared a state of emergency, suspended Pakistan's constitution, replaced the chief judge and blacked out independent TV outlets.

Musharraf said he did so to stabilize the country and to fight rising Islamist extremism. The action drew sharp criticism from the United States and democracy advocates. Pakistanis openly called for his ouster.

Under pressure from the West, he later lifted the state of emergency and promised elections. When those elections came, his party was dealt a serious blow.

Musharraf stepped down in August 2008 as the governing coalition began taking steps to impeach him.

He has not been allowed to leave the country since arriving back from self-imposed exile in the run-up to this year's elections.

No love lost

It's not surprising that Sharif would call for Musharraf to be held criminally liable; there is no love lost between the two men.

In the 1990s, when Sharif was prime minister, Musharraf was military chief. Sharif feared Musharraf was plotting his ouster.

He fired Musharraf in October 1999 after the army's failed invasion of Kargil, in India-held Kashmir. And when Musharraf was on a flight to the city of Karachi, his plane was initially denied permission to land, purportedly by Sharif.

The military responded by overthrowing Sharif in a bloodless coup. Musharraf took power, and a court subsequently convicted Sharif on hijacking and treason charges.

Sharif managed to negotiate a period in exile in Saudi Arabia instead of prison. He returned to Pakistan to challenge Musharraf's rule in late 2007.

His party didn't win. But he waited.

This year, his party won a majority of the votes, putting him back in power.

CNN's Saima Mohsin contributed to this report.

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