No treason case against Musharraf

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's top court on Thursday turned down a request to launch a treason case against ex-military ruler Pervez Musharraf, while the former president failed to show up and explain his 2007 imposition of emergency rule for a second day of hearings.

The court sessions have jolted the Pakistani political establishment at a time of relative calm and just as the U.S. wants it to focus on eradicating militancy that threatens the Afghan war effort next door.

Petitioner Hamid Khan, a lawyer, wanted the Supreme Court to order the registration of the treason case. Possible punishments for high treason in Pakistan include death.

Chief Justice Iftikhar Mohammed Chaudhry rejected the petition, saying the parliament was the proper venue to debate the merits of Musharraf's actions, which also included firing dozens of judges including Chaudhry himself.

Last week, the high court summoned Musharraf, or his lawyer, to appear this week to explain his 2007 actions.

Neither Musharraf nor a representative showed up Wednesday or Thursday. Musharraf lives in London and he has said his actions were in the interest of Pakistan.

Musharraf seized power in a bloodless 1999 military coup. He made Pakistan a key U.S. ally following the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks that sparked the American-led invasion of neighboring Afghanistan.

In early 2007, Musharraf fired Chaudhry. It triggered street protests led by lawyers, damaging Musharraf's popularity. Musharraf's party lost elections in 2008 that further eroded his grip on power.

Subsequently, the coalition government that came to power forced Musharraf to quit by threatening to impeach him. Musharraf stepped down in August, and since then has toured different countries to deliver lectures at think tanks and universities.

Under domestic pressure, the new Pakistani government reinstated Chaudhry and other judges fired by the former president.