(Updates with market reaction)
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, June 24 (Reuters) - Pakistan intends to
put former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on trial on
charges of high treason, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif said on
Monday, in a move that shocked investors and appeared likely to
anger the powerful armed forces.
The charges being considered against Musharraf relate to his
declaration of a state of emergency in 2007 and the suspension
of constitutional rights that followed.
In Pakistan, the maximum penalty for treason is death.
"Musharraf will have to answer for his guilt before the
court," Sharif said in parliament.
The government "firmly subscribes to the view that the
holding in abeyance of the constitution on 3rd November 2007
constituted an act of high treason", he said, reading from a
statement simultaneously presented to the Supreme Court.
Musharraf ousted Sharif in a coup 14 years ago, cutting
short his second term as prime minister. Sharif was then hounded
into exile in Saudi Arabia.
Sharif's decision to move against Musharraf suggests he has
decided to be more assertive than the last government towards
the military, which has ruled for much of Pakistan's 66-year
"Notwithstanding the fact that the prime minister has borne
the brunt of Musharraf's brazen coup, he wishes to assure both
this august court and the people of Pakistan that he will act
according to the highest standards of justice and follow the due
process of law," Sharif read from the statement.
Pakistan's benchmark share index plunged 3 percent on
concerns about short-term political stability, and might have
fallen more if the Karachi exchange had not suspended trading in
major shares that had fallen 5 percent.
"Considering the enormity of the government decision, some
investors feared the market could crash," said securities
analyst Khurram Shahzad of Arif Habib Group.
Musharraf, a key ally of president George W. Bush in the
early years of Washington's "war on terror", himself spent
almost four years in self-imposed exile. He returned to Pakistan
hoping to contest elections in May, but was put under house
His detention appeared to break an unwritten rule that the
top ranks of the military are untouchable, even after they have
retired. The current army chief has suggested the military is
unhappy with Musharraf's treatment.
Musharraf's spokesman called Sharif's announcement "reckless
and ill conceived", saying it was designed to distract attention
from more pressing national issues.
"It can result in unnecessary tension amongst the various
pillars of state and possibly destabilise the country," the
spokesman, Raza Bokhari, told reporters.
Accusations that Musharraf failed to provide enough security
to prevent the assassination of former prime minister Benazir
Bhutto in 2007 led to his house arrest. He denies wrongdoing in
all the cases brought against him.
Last month's election brought Sharif back to office for an
unprecedented third time and provided the first transition
between two civilian governments in Pakistan's turbulent
(Additional reporting by Syed Raza Hassan; Reporting by Frank
Jack Daniel; Editing by Clarence Fernandez and Kevin Liffey)