[JURIST] The Supreme Court of Pakistan [official website] on Monday ordered former Pakistani president and military ruler Pervez Musharraf [BBC profile; JURIST news archive] to remain in the country until he has responded to allegations of treason. The allegations stem from Musharraf’s 1999 military overthrow [BBC backgrounder] of democratically-elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif [JURIST news archive] and his subsequent suspension [AP report] of the nation’s constitution. Pakistani authorities also alleged that Musharraf was involved in the assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto [JURIST news archive], who was killed in 2007 in a suicide attack at a rally in Rawalpindi after returning from exile in Great Britain and Dubai. Musharraf returned to Pakistan in late-March to be a candidate in the nation’s May 11 parliamentary elections, ending a four-year self-imposed exile. While many local districts have reportedly rejected his nomination, he was recently given approval to run in a remote district in northern Pakistan. However, the treason allegations may complicate his election bid and a hearing on the matter has been scheduled for Tuesday. If convicted of treason, Musharraf may face execution.
Musharraf’s return to Pakistan is fraught with controversy. In March Human Rights Watch urged [JURIST report] Pakistan to hold Musharraf accountable for alleged human rights abuses upon his return to the country. Last year Pakistani authorities pledged to arrest [JURIST report] Musharraf for his alleged involvement in Bhutto’s assassination. Months earlier, a court ordered seizure of his property [JURIST report] and froze his bank account after his failure to respond to multiple subpoenas related to the assassination investigation. In 2011 Pakistani authorities issued an arrest warrant for Musharraf but were unable to serve [JURIST report] it on him because he was living in London at the time. That warrant was issued weeks after investigations revealed [JURIST report] that Musharraf had issued orders to the police officers accused of failing to protect Bhutto on the day that she was assassinated. Musharraf has dealt with treason charges stemming from the 1999 coup in the past as well. In August 2009 the Supreme Court of Pakistan rejected a petition [JURIST report] seeking treason charges against Musharraf, finding that the applicant lacked standing and that the Supreme Court was not the appropriate forum for such a petition.