The Lahore High Court (LHC) has voided the death sentence of ex-president Pervez Musharraf, ruling that a special court which found him guilty of high treason was unconstitutional, according to a government law officer.
Following the LHC ruling, the former president is now a “free man,” Ishtiaq A. Khan, Additional Attorney General of Pakistan, who represented the government in the case, told AFP. The whole process against Musharraf – including the creation of a special court – was deemed to be void.
Lahore High Court “has declared everything from the initiation of the complaint and its conclusion unconstitutional,” Khan said as cited by Reuters.
Earlier in the day, Musharraf’s lawyer Azhar Siddique told the media outside the court that the judges have “nullified everything” against his client.
The former Pakistani president was sentenced to death in absentia on charges of high treason and undermining the constitution by the now-void special court in December last year. The verdict received a mixed reaction with Pakistan’s top military and government figures harshly criticizing the decision.
A provision to hang Musharraf’s body in front of parliament for three days, should he perish before the death sentence is carried out, was included in the verdict by one of the judges and sparked a backlash. It was branded “unprecedented and despicable” by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, who called for the “mentally unfit” judge to be ousted.
A controversial figure in Pakistan, Musharraf was a general and army chief when he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999. The accusations of treason against him date back to 2007, when he imposed a state of emergency as he sought reelection as president.
Critics say Musharraf’s leadership was a setback for Pakistan. They accuse him of opening the country up to the CIA and its anti-terrorism program of targeted drone killings. Apart from that, they believe he was linked to the assassination of his political opponent, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007. Musharraf has always firmly denied the allegation.
His supporters, however, believe he is a true patriot, who stood up to Islamist militants and staunchly defended Islamabad’s interests both at home and internationally.