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Pakistan's Musharraf slips treason charges, but is held incommunicado

Pakistan's caretaker government has refused to bring treason charges against the detained former military leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, saying it was beyond its mandate.

By Staff writer / April 22, 2013

Pakistani former president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf arrives at an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, Pakistan, on Saturday, April 20, 2013. The general who ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade before being forced to step down appeared on Saturday in front of the court in connection with charges linked to his 2007 sacking and detention of a number of judges.

Anjum Naveed/AP

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Today, Gen. Pervez Musharraf remains under arrest, confined to two rooms in his farmhouse, and the former military leader of Pakistan is still not allowed visits, say his lawyers.

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Yet in what is likely good news for the former Army chief, the interim government of Pakistan today said it will not try Musharraf for treason, saying it does not have the power to do so and that elections, set for May 11, are a national priority.

“We cannot initiate proceedings against him [Musharraf] under Article 6 of the Constitution as we don’t have mandate to do so. Our mandate states that our first and foremost duty is to carry free and fair elections and provide security to the candidates,” the interim government said in its reply to the court regarding Musharraf’s treason case, according to the National Turk.

The last week especially has been a trying one for Musharraf: He came out of self-imposed exile in March to “save Pakistan,” as he said, and run for high office. His bid fell flat among the public and then the official election commission barred his candidacy. Last week, Musharraf got an arrest order by a high court in Islamabad that said his attempt in 2007 to replace federal judges amounted to treason. But the former autocrat brushed aside court police and was escorted to his nearby country house by his security detail.

An arrest warrant for a former supreme military and civilian commander is unprecedented in Pakistan; pundits last week expressed astonishment even that the warrant was issued. But civilian legal authorities have continued to press, requiring the current caretaker government to intervene. 

Musharraf may still face a court battle over charges he was complicitous in two high-profile political assassinations, including that of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto in 2007. Musharraf has denied the charges and little evidence has come forth for them. 

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