Pakistan court orders Pervez Musharraf to appear over treason



Islamabad: Pakistan's top court ordered former military ruler Pervez Musharraf to appear in person on Tuesday over treason allegations and barred him from leaving the country.

The orders were issued after the Supreme Court heard applications from lawyers that the ex-dictator face a treason trial for imposing emergency rule and arresting judges in November 2007, a move which paved the way for his downfall.

"It is necessary to issue notice to the respondents in these petitions. The office shall ensure service of notice to the respondents for tomorrow," Justice Jawad Khawaja told the court, referring to Musharraf and the state.

Government officials should "ensure that the respondent (Musharraf) does not leave the jurisdiction of Pakistan", he added.

Musharraf returned to Pakistan on March 24 after four years of exile to run for Parliament in the May 11 General Election, a move he said was intended to "save" the troubled nuclear-armed state.

Musharraf faces a number of other legal cases. He has been bailed over the 2007 killing of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and a Baluch rebel leader in 2006, and for sacking and arresting judges in 2007.

He has been approved to stand for election only in the remote northern area of Chitral on the Afghan border, after his application to stand in three other constituencies -- in Islamabad, Karachi and Punjab province -- were rejected.

The May election will be the first democratic transition of power in Pakistan.

Since its founding in 1947 it has been governed by four military rulers, most recently Musharraf, and is struggling with a weak economy, chronic instability and poverty.

Since he left office in 2008 Musharraf's power base has shrivelled. Last month he suffered the indignity of having a shoe thrown at him in court by an angry lawyer -- a deeply insulting gesture in the Muslim world.

He is not thought likely to win more than a couple of seats with his All Pakistan Muslim League party, which he founded in self-imposed exile with the help of Pakistani expatriates.

Officials in Chitral, where Musharraf hopes to win support because of development work carried out during his rule, approved his candidature on Sunday. But a lawyer in the town said he would appeal against the ruling.

AFP