Pakistani court lifts travel ban on former military ruler Musharraf

ISLAMABAD (Reuters) - Pakistan’s Supreme Court on Wednesday ordered the government to lift a travel ban on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, paving the way for him to leave the country while awaiting trial for treason and other charges.

A placard of former President Pervez Musharraf, head of the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) political party, is left behind by his supporter after a protest demanding a fair trial for him in Karachi March 9, 2014. REUTERS/Akhtar Soomro

The departure of Musharraf, who has faced a battery of court cases since returning home from self-imposed exile in 2013, would remove a source of friction between the powerful army and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.

Then army chief Musharraf overthrew Sharif in a 1999 coup and ruled Pakistan until 2008 when he stepped down in the face of widespread opposition to his rule.

Current military rulers are known to have disapproved of the legal action against their old boss, which stems from his suspension of the constitution and imposition of emergency rule in 2007, when he was trying to extend his hold on power.

Sharif’s government had long declined to let Musharraf leave the country, saying it was a decision for the courts.

A provincial court had ruled in 2014 that Musharraf be allowed to travel abroad but the federal government appealed that decision. On Wednesday, the Supreme Court rejected that.

“Appeal is dismissed,” the court said in a short order.

Musharraf pleaded not guilty to five counts of treason in April 2014.

His lawyer, Farough Naseem, said he was now free to travel abroad and seek medical treatment outside Pakistan. He was taken to hospital with chest pains in January.

His lawyers say he also wants to visit his ailing mother in Dubai.

The former president is also on bail in connection with two other major cases: the 2007 assassination of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and the killing of a prominent cleric.

He has pleaded not guilty in all cases and has remained free though not allowed to travel abroad.

Reporting by Mehreen Zahra-Malik and Asad Hashim; Editing by Robert Birsel