A Pakistani court has convicted former military dictator Pervez Musharraf of treason in absentia and has sentenced him to death, Reuters reports. The move is largely seen as having less to do with Musharraf himself — who is in exile in Dubai — and more to do with an internal power struggle currently occurring within Pakistan’s government.
On Tuesday, a three-judge panel of a special anti-terrorism court convicted Musharraf — by a 2-1 vote — for his actions over the course of a few months in late 2007 and early 2008, during which he imposed a severe set of rules in an attempt to hold on to his power while facing intense opposition.
Musharraf became head of Pakistan’s armed forces in 1998, having been promoted to the country’s highest military rank by then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif. However, Musharraf and Sharif’s relationship deteriorated. By 1999, Musharraf had assumed power during a coup after Sharif unsuccessfully tried to have him removed from his post.
Though Musharraf’s dictatorship brought some positive changes to Pakistan, his government was also accused of human rights abuses.
Late 2007 saw the beginning of the end for Musharraf’s presidency, as Pakistan’s judiciary tried to prevent him from simultaneously being the head of the military and the president. In November 2007, as his rule was being threatened, Musharraf suspended all civil liberties, human rights, and democratic processes, a state of affairs that lasted until February 2008. Musharraf then resigned and went into self-imposed exile.
In 2013, Sharif was reelected and he issued arrest warrants for Musharraf and others.
Tuesday’s conviction is seen as having less to do with Musharraf’s crimes and more to do with the ongoing power struggle between Pakistan‘s judiciary and the military. The judiciary is trying to restrain the military and establish the rule of law in the country.
Senator Pervaiz Rashid, an aide to Sharif, called Tuesday’s court decision a landmark ruling that would help constrain the military.
“We have secured our future generations,” he said.
Musharraf, for his part, has not commented on Tuesday’s sentence. Last month, however, from a hospital bed in Dubai, he claimed that he was not being given a fair hearing in the case. He also defended his actions during his rule.
“I served the nation and made decisions for the betterment of the country,” he claimed.
Musharraf is unlikely to return to Pakistan to face his sentence, according to MarketWatch. It’s unlikely as well that Pakistan will attempt to have Musharraf extradited, as there is no extradition treaty between Pakistan and the United Arab Emirates.