The death sentence for Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf was annulled on Monday after a higher court overruled the original ruling.
The 76-year-old, who has been living in self-imposed exile in Dubai since 2016, is now a free man and can freely return to Pakistan, Lahore's High Court ruled Monday.
In a major relief for Pakistan's self-exiled former military dictator, the court declared his "complaint and trial" in the high treason case as "unconstitutional" leading to the annulment of his death penalty by a special tribunal.
An 86-page petition, filed to Lahore High Court (LHC) by Musharraf's legal team in December previous year, stated that the verdict against the former president "contained a mix of anomalies and contradictory statements", as quoted by local media.
Moreover, the special court said that it will announce the verdict of high treason case against Pervez Musharraf on December 17.
Musharraf's lawyer, Azhar Siddique, also told the media outside the court in Lahore that it has "nullified everything".
Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan's former president and head of the All Pakistan Muslim League political party, salutes as he arrives to unveil his election manifesto at his residence in Islamabad, Pakistan, April 15, 2013. It relates to Gen Musharraf's suspension of the constitution in 2007, when he declared an emergency in a move meant to extend his tenure.
After Sharif was elected prime minister in 2013, he initiated a treason trial against Musharraf, and in March 2014, the former general was charged for high treason.
On November 19, 2019, the court had concluded the case and reserved the verdict for announcement on November 28 but on November 23, 2019, Musharraf challenged special court's move in Lahore High Court while a plea from interior ministry was also filed in Islamabad High Court (IHC).
The LHC bench, which was hearing Musharraf's petitions against the verdict, also ruled that the treason case against the former president was not prepared in accordance with the law.
Musharraf was the first military ruler convicted for subverting the Constitution.
During proceedings, Additional Attorney General Ishtiaq Khan told the court, on behalf of the federal government, that the decision to charge Musharraf had not been included in the cabinet agenda, as required after the passage of the 18 Amendment.
The charges against Musharraf - who was sentenced in absentia on Tuesday - stem from his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007, after which dozens of judges were placed under house arrest or sacked, sparking widespread street protests by lawyers.
The court also ruled that the amended Article 6 of the Constitution, under which Musharraf had been found guilty, could not be applied in the case "ex post facto" (retrospectively).
Musharraf has been in self-imposed exile ever since a travel ban was lifted in 2016 that allowed him to seek medical treatment overseas.
He seized power during a coup in 1999 and later ruled as president until 2008.
Musharraf made Pakistan a key ally of the United States in its war on terror following the September 11, 2001 attacks. Musharraf resigned in 2008 to avoid impeachment.
Supporters of former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf protest against the sentencing of Musharraf to death on January 1.