A Pakistani special court on Friday summoned former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to appear in a high treason case, an offense that could see him face death or life in prison, a government prosecutor said.
“Musharraf has been ordered to appear before the court on Dec. 24,” Akram Sheikh, the head of the government prosecution team, told reporters by telephone.
It will be the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former military dictator will face a treason trial.
Pakistan’s top court last month accepted a government request to set up a special tribunal to try Musharraf for high treason.
The three judges were later chosen by the government of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, who is now on an unprecedented collision course with the all-powerful military.
A government official said the special court, headed by Justice Faisal Arbab, acceded to the government request to try Musharraf during the hearing on Friday, after accepting a government charge sheet against the former ruler.
According to the Pakistani constitution, anyone found guilty of abrogating, subverting, suspending and holding in abeyance the constitution shall be guilty of committing the offense of high treason.
The treason accusation relates to Musharraf’s decision in 2007 to impose emergency rule shortly before the Pakistani Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier, while he was still head of the army.
Musharraf overthrew the government of Nawaz Sharif — elected to power again in May this year — in a bloodless military coup in October 1999, but a year later the Supreme Court validated the takeover.
During the 2007 period of emergency rule, he suspended the constitution and parliament, and sacked top judges who declared his actions unconstitutional and illegal.
Musharraf faces an array of criminal charges dating back to his 1999 to 2008 rule, including for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007.
Despite being on bail in all other charges, Musharraf remains under guard at his Islamabad farmhouse because of Taliban threats to his life, and is unable to leave Pakistan as his name appears on a government control list.