ISLAMABAD: A Pakistani court sentenced on Tuesday (Dec 17) former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to death on charges of high treason and subverting the constitution, government officials said.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 coup and later ruled as president until 2008, is out of the country and did not comment on a ruling widely seen as part of a standoff between the judiciary and the military over the rule of law.
The army said there had been "pain and anguish" in the ranks over the ruling against Musharraf, who is the first former army chief to be charged with treason in Pakistan and has said the powerful military helped him get out of the country.
The full ruling by a special anti-terrorism court was not immediately available but the three judges reached a majority verdict, with two of them deciding against Musharraf.
Musharraf, who is now 76, imposed a state of emergency at a time when he faced growing opposition to his rule and a countrywide campaign led by lawyers, judges and political parties. All civil liberties, human rights and democratic processes were suspended from November 2007 to February 2008.
The final years of Musharraf's rule were marked by struggles with the judiciary over his wish to remain head of the army while also being president. He quit in 2008, after a political party that backed him fared poorly in a national election.
Last month, Musharraf issued a video recording from a hospital bed in Dubai in which he said he was not being given a fair hearing in the case, filed in 2013 by former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, whose government was ousted by Musharraf in 1999.
"I served the nation and made decisions for the betterment of the country," Musharraf said in the video clip.
A lawyer representing Musharraf in the court said he would challenge the court ruling.
Senator Pervaiz Rashid, an aide to Sharif, called it a landmark ruling that would help constrain the army in future.
"We have secured our future generations," he said.
The ruling was seen by political analysts as the latest blow struck by Pakistan's increasingly assertive judiciary in its battle with the military to establish the rule of law.
Three weeks ago, the Supreme Court struck down a three-year extension of army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa's tenure, saying were no legal or constitutional grounds to grant the general another term after his retirement on Nov 29.
"For the first time that extension given to an army chief has been questioned by the court," said Zahid Hussain, an independent political commentator.
He said it was not clear how the standoff would end, but that the Supreme Court ruling had stoked political tension.