ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani court Monday quashed the death sentence handed down to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, declaring as unlawful the legal process that led to his conviction.
Former President Musharraf, 76, had challenged the formation a special three-judge tribunal which tried and found him guilty of treason in December for subverting the country’s constitution. The offense carries the death penalty under Pakistani laws.
The ailing former military dictator, who lives in self-imposed exile in Dubai, had denounced the judgment, saying it was the result of a "personal vendetta" and delivered without giving him or his lawyer permission to say “something in his defense.”
On Monday, the high court in the eastern city of Lahore responded to Musharraf’s appeal and overturned the verdict.
Government prosecutor Ishtiaq Khan said the judicial order declared as “unconstitutional” the process of initiating the complaint against Musharraf and the constitution of the special tribunal.
Musharraf's lawyer later also told reporters the court had “nullified” the ruling against his client.
The unprecedented original verdict that handed death sentence to Musharraf also shocked the powerful military, which has ruled Pakistan through direct coups for nearly half of the country's history and indirectly dominates political affairs even during civilian rule.
Musharraf seized power in a bloodless military coup in 1999, an action that had been validated by the Supreme Court at the time, paving the way for him to also become president of Pakistan, while serving as army chief.
The high treason trial of Musharraf, which began six years ago, stemmed from his suspension of the constitution in 2007 after imposing emergency rule in the country in a bid to cling to power. He also placed top judges, including the then-chief justice, under house arrest for opposing his rule.
Musharraf later resigned as army chief and stepped down in early 2008 from the presidency, fearing impeachment by the newly-elected Pakistani parliament that was mostly comprised of political parties averse to his rule.