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

    California Republicans Mull Choices in Presidential Race

    Ted Cruz tells state's Republican Convention delegates campaign will be 'battle on the ground, district by district by district,' ahead of June 7 primary

    Video Kurdish Football Team Helps War-Torn City Cope

    With conflict still raging across much of Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, many Kurds are trying to escape turmoil by focusing on success of football team Amedspor

    South African Company Designs Unique Solar Cooker

    Two-man team of solar power technologists introduces Sol4, hot plate that heats up so fast it’s like cooking with gas or electricity

    Featured Videos

    Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
    Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensionsi
    X
    April 29, 2016 12:28 AM
    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Turkish Kurd Islamist Rally Stokes Tensions

    In a sign of the rising power of Islamists in Turkey, more than 100,000 people recently gathered in Diyarbakir, the main city in Turkey’s predominantly Kurdish southeast, to mark the birthday of the Prophet Muhammad. The gathering highlighted tensions with the pro-secular Kurdish nationalist movement. Dorian Jones reports from Diyarbakir.
    Video

    Video Pakistani School Helps Slum Kids

    Master Mohammad Ayub runs a makeshift school in a public park in Islamabad. Thousands of poor children have benefited from his services over the years, but, as VOA's Ayesha Tanzeem reports, roughly 25 million school-age youths don't get an education in Pakistan.
    Video

    Video Florida’s Weeki Wachee ‘Mermaids’ Make a Splash

    Since 1947, ‘mermaids’ have fascinated tourists at central Florida’s Weeki Wachee Springs State Park with their fluid movements and synchronized ballet. Performing underwater has its challenges, including cold temperatures and a steady current, as VOA’s Lin Yang and Joseph Mok report.
    Video

    Video Somali, African Union Forces Face Resurgent Al-Shabab

    The Islamic State terror group claimed its first attack in Somalia earlier this week, though the claim has not been verified by forces on the ground. Meanwhile, al-Shabab militants have stepped up their attacks as Somalia prepares for elections later this year. Henry Ridgwell reports there are growing frustrations among Somalia’s Western backers over the country’s slow progress in forming its own armed forces to establish security after 25 years of chaos.
    Video

    Video Bangladesh Targeted Killings Spark Wave of Fear

    People in Bangladesh’s capital are expressing deep concern over the brutal attacks that have killed secular blogger, and most recently a gay rights activist and an employee of the U.S. embassy. Xulhaz Mannan, an embassy protocol officer and the editor of the country’s only gay and transgender magazine Roopban; and his friend Mehboob Rabbi Tanoy, a gay rights activist, were hacked to death by five attackers in Mannan’s Dhaka home earlier this month.
    Video

    Video Documentary Tells Tale of Chernobyl Returnees

    Ukraine this week is marking the 30th anniversary of the world's worst nuclear accident, at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant. Soviet officials at first said little about the accident, but later evacuated a 2,600-square-kilometer "exclusion zone." Some people, though, came back. American directors Holly Morris and Anne Bogart created a documentary about this faithful and brave community. VOA's Tetiana Kharchenko reports from New York on "The Babushkas of Chernobyl." Carol Pearson narrates.
    Video

    Video Nigerians Feel Bite of Buhari Economic Policy

    Despite the global drop in the price of oil, Nigerian President Muhammadu Buhari has refused to allow the country's currency to devalue, leading to a shortage of foreign exchange. Chris Stein reports from Lagos businessmen and consumers are feeling the impact as the country deals with a severe fuel shortage.
    Video

    Video  Return to the Wild

    There’s a growing trend in the United States to let old or underused golf courses revert back to nature. But as Erika Celeste reports from one parcel in Grafton, Ohio, converting 39 hectares of land back to green space is a lot more complicated than just not mowing the fairway.
    Video

    Video West Urges Unity in Libya as Migrant Numbers Soar

    The Italian government says a NATO-led mission aimed at stemming the flow of migrants from Libya to Europe could be up and running by July. There are concerns that the number of migrants could soar as the route through Greece and the Balkans remains blocked. Western powers say the political chaos in Libya is being exploited by people smugglers — and they are pressuring rival groups to come together under the new unity government. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
    Video

    Video Russia’s TV Rain Swims Against Tide in Sea of Kremlin Propaganda

    Russia’s media freedoms have been gradually eroded under President Vladimir Putin as his government has increased state ownership, influence, and restrictions on critical reporting. Television, where most Russians get their news, has been the main target and is now almost completely state controlled. But in the Russian capital, TV Rain stands out as an island in a sea of Kremlin propaganda.

    Special Report

    Adrift The Invisible African Diaspora