News / Asia

Musharraf Trial Opens in Pakistan

Pakistan's former president and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party Pervez Musharraf (C) is escorted by security officials as he leaves an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, April 20, 2013.
Pakistan's former president and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party Pervez Musharraf (C) is escorted by security officials as he leaves an anti-terrorism court in Islamabad, April 20, 2013.
Ayaz Gul
The trial of Pakistan’s former military leader, Pervez Musharraf, opened Tuesday, a week after an anti-terrorism court indicted him on charges of conspiring to murder Benazir Bhutto. The 70-year old retired general has pleaded not guilty. Independent legal experts say the case against Musharraf is flimsy.
Journalists are not allowed to cover the trial, which is taking place in the garrison city of Rawalpindi, where Bhutto, who twiced served as Pakistan's prime minister, was assassinated in December 2007.
She was killed in a gun-and-bomb attack while leaving a political campaign rally just weeks after returning to Pakistan from years in self-imposed exile. Authorities claimed at the time that Taliban militants were behind the attack.
Prosecutor Chaudhry Mohammad Azhar told reporters Tuesday that a policeman and four doctors were supposed to testify against Musharraf in the opening proceedings, but that the doctors could not attend for “personal reasons."
“The police constable was present in the house [courtroom]. He was examined and cross-examined by the defense and the justice. Now, the four doctors have been summoned for the next date, on September 3,” he said.
Musharraf did not attend the proceedings, which took place under tight security. The anti-terrorism court accepted a request from defense lawyers that the former military leader be exempted from personally appearing in the court because of threats to his life.
Musharraf ruled Pakistan for nearly a decade after he seized power in a military coup in 1999.  He survived two assassination attempts while in power, and Islamist extremists have vowed to kill him.

Respected lawyers believe the case against Musharraf lacks substance. Still, former acting Pakistani president and Supreme Court attorney Wasim Sajjad acknowledges the significance of the trial in a country that has experienced military rule for half of its 66-year history.  

“It is the first time that a former president and former army chief is being tried in a court of law,” he said.
Bhutto warned before her murder that Musharraf, who was ruling the country at the time, should be held responsible if she was assassinated. But Sajjad says the outcome of the court case will depend on whether the prosecution can present evidence establishing a direct link between Musharraf and the murder.
“He has been indicted on the charge that he is somehow involved in the murder of Benazir Bhutto," he said. "A lot will depend on what kind of evidence is produced to link him [Musharraf] with the offense, because on the face of it he [was] not directly concerned with the security of anybody as president or army chief."
A U.N. investigation into the Bhutto murder was unable to fix responsibility on individuals, and investigators suggested that a clear chain of evidence leading from the scene of the crime to the actual planners would be extremely difficult to determine.
Soon after he was elected Pakistan's prime minister in June, Nawaz Sharif declared that Musharraf should be tried for treason. He was referring to a case pending in the Supreme Court, in which the former president is accused of putting top judges under house arrest in 2007 when he declared a state of emergency in the country in violation of the constitution.

In Pakistan, the maximum penalty for treason is death.

You May Like

Video In US, Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy

Holiday marks date Columbus discovered Americas, but some are offended by legacy because he enslaved many natives he encountered More

Video Through Sports, Austria Tries to Give Migrants Traction

With 85,000 people expected to claim asylum in Austria this year, its government has made integration through joint physical activities a key objective More

Video Kickboxing Champion Shares Sport With Young Migrants

Pouring into Europe by hundreds of thousands, some migrants, especially youngsters, are finding sports a way to integrate into new host countries More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemeni
Henry Ridgwell
October 12, 2015 4:03 PM
The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video Amnesty Accuses Saudi Coalition of ‘War Crimes’ in Yemen

The human rights group Amnesty International has accused the Saudi-led coalition of war crimes in airstrikes against Houthi rebels in Yemen. Henry Ridgwell reports the group says hundreds of civilians have been killed in strikes on residential areas.

Video No Resolution in Sight to US House Speaker Drama

Uncertainty grips the U.S. Congress, where no consensus replacement has emerged to succeed Republican House Speaker John Boehner after his surprise resignation announcement. Half of Congress is effectively leaderless weeks before America risks defaulting on its national debt and enduring another partial government shutdown.

Video New Art Exhibit Focuses on Hope

Out of struggle and despair often comes hope. That idea is behind a new art exhibit at the American Visionary Art Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. "The Big Hope Show" features 25 artists, some of whom overcame trauma and loss. VOA’s Deborah Block reports.

Video Columbus Day Still Generates Controversy as US Holiday

The second Monday of October is Columbus Day in the United States, honoring explorer Christopher Columbus and his discovery of the Americas. The achievement is a source of pride for many, but for some the holiday is marked by controversy. Adrianna Zhang has more.

Video Anger Simmers as Turks Begin to Bury Blast Victims

The Turkish army carried out new air strikes on Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) targets on Sunday, a day after the banned group announced a unilateral cease fire. The air raids apparently are in retaliation for the Saturday bombing in Turkey's capital Ankara that killed at least 95 people and wounded more than 200 others. But as Zlatica Hoke reports, there are suspicions that Islamic State is involved.

Video Bombings a Sign of Turkey’s Deep Troubles

Turkey has begun a three-day period of mourning following Saturday’s bomb attacks in the capital, Ankara, that killed nearly 100 people. With contentious parliamentary elections three weeks away, the attacks highlight the challenges Turkey is facing as it struggles with ethnic friction, an ongoing migrant crisis, and growing tensions with Russia. VOA Europe correspondent Luis Ramirez reports.

Video Afghanistan’s Progress Aided by US Academic Center

Recent combat in Afghanistan has shifted world attention back to the central Asian nation’s continuing civil war and economic challenges. But, while there are many vexing problems facing Afghanistan’s government and people, a group of academics in Omaha, Nebraska has kept a strong faith in the nation’s future through programs to improve education. VOA’s Greg Flakus has more from Omaha, Nebraska.

Video House Republicans in Chaos as Speaker Favorite Withdraws

The Republican widely expected to become the next speaker of the House of Representatives shocked his colleagues Thursday by announcing he was withdrawing his candidacy. The decision by Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy means the race to succeed retiring Speaker John Boehner is now wide open. VOA National Correspondent Jim Malone reports.

Video German, US Officials Investigate Volkswagen

German officials have taken steps to restore some of the reputation their car industry has lost after a recent Volkswagen diesel emissions scandal. Authorities have searched Volkswagen headquarters and other locations in an effort to identify the culprits in the creation of software that helps cheat on emission tests. Meanwhile, a group of lawmakers in Washington held a hearing to get to the bottom of the cheating strategy that was first discovered in the United States. Zlatica Hoke reports.

Video Why Are Gun Laws So Hard for Congress to Tackle?

Since taking office, President Barack Obama has spoken out or issued statements about 15 mass shootings. The most recent shooting, in which 10 people were killed at a community college, sparked outrage over the nation's gun laws. But changing those laws isn't as easy as many think. VOA's Carolyn Presutti reports.

Video In 'He Named Me Malala,' Guggenheim Finds Normal in Extraordinary

Davis Guggenheim’s documentary "He Named Me Malala" offers a probing look into the life of 18-year-old Malala Yousafsai, the Pakistani teenager who, in 2012, was shot in the head by the Taliban for standing up for her right to education in her hometown in Pakistan's Swat Valley. Guggenheim shows how, since then, Malala has become a symbol not as a victim of brutal violence, but as an advocate for girls’ education throughout the world. VOA’s Penelope Poulou has more.

Video Paintable Solar Cells May Someday Replace Silicon-Based Panels

Solar panels today are still factory-manufactured, with the use of some highly toxic substances such as cadmium chloride. But a researcher at St. Mary’s College, Maryland, says we are close to being able to create solar panels by painting them on a suitable surface, using nontoxic solutions. VOA’s George Putic reports.

VOA Blogs