WASHINGTON — Former Pakistani president and dictator Pervez Musharraf is on trial for charges of committing high treason, due to a 2007 crisis where Musharraf suspended constitutional rights after declaring the country in a state of emergency.
Reuters reports that the maximum penalty for Musharraf in this case, if convicted of treason, is death. Musharraf and current Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif are political foes, with Musharraf forcibly exiling Sharif to Saudi Arabia in the early 2000s.
Analysts fear that the powerful military will be provoked if Musharraf is found guilty and sentenced to death, since Musharraf was a former military officer. The Pakistani military has acted as a guardian and overseer of sorts, balancing radicalism through coups and exiles.
One of the chief Pakistani military officers said he was upset over how Musharraf has been treated by the current civilian government, and could be a precedent for another military intervention in domestic politics.
Sharif was quoted as saying, “Notwithstanding the fact that the Prime Minister has borne the brunt of Musharraf’s brazen coup, he wishes to assure both this august court and the people of Pakistan that he will act according to the highest standards of justice and follow the due process of law”.
As suicide bombings and shootings increase in Pakistan, due to rising tensions for elections between secular and Islamist groups, this trial could further destabilize the country. It also does not help that the country’s anti-corruption agency sacked their recently appointed chief for an illegal appointment by the government. Another worrisome component is that Pakistan has nuclear weapons, and if there is further unrest, some fear that these weapons could be seized by terrorist and anti-Western groups.