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Ex-Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraf to leave country for medical treatment, dodging treason trial, sources say

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, center, surrounded by guards arrives at a court in Karachi, Pakistan, March 29, 2013.
AP

ISLAMABAD – Pakistan’s former military ruler Gen. Pervez Musharraf is expected to leave the country for medical treatment in exile, avoiding treason charges and returning to a life away from his home country by the end of January, a family member and a Pakistani intelligence official told CBS News on Tuesday.  

Last Thursday, Musharraf was rushed to the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) in the city of Rawalpindi, next to Islamabad, after complaining of chest pains while being driven to the court where his high treason trial was due to begin.

The special court trying Musharraf said Tuesday it was examining a medical report to decide whether Musharraf can be excused from appearing in court while he remains hospitalized.

The treason charges, which carry the death penalty or life imprisonment under Pakistan’s laws, relate to events in 2007 when Musharraf, while serving as Pakistan’s president and military commander, imposed a nationwide state of emergency and oversaw the arrests of several judges and civil society activists.

Akram Sheikh, the prosecutor in the case, has told the court he doubts Musharraf is ill and accused the former president of trying to avoid making an appearance.

Twice before Musharraf refused to appear in court after his security staff found explosives hidden near a road down which he was due to travel to the proceedings.

During his nine-year rule, which began when he seized power in a 1999 military coup and dismissed the elected government of then-Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Musharraf faced at least three known assassination attempts -- widely believed to have been organized by the Taliban. 

Musharraf has described his trial as a political “vendetta” led by Sharif, who was elected as prime minister for the third time in parliamentary elections in May 2013.

Western diplomats have warned the case could widen the divide between Pakistan’s civilian government and its influential Pakistan Army, which ruled the nuclear-armed south Asian country for almost half of its 66-year existence as an independent state.

“I am under the impression the Army may try to discourage the government from putting one of its former chiefs on trial,” one Western diplomat told CBS News on the condition of anonymity.

No top Army commander has been prosecuted in the nation’s history, and the diplomat said the Army is now lobbying behind the scenes to facilitate Musharraf’s exit from Pakistan.

“He is, after all, in a military hospital right now. From there he is more than likely to go into exile for purposes of medical treatment,” said the diplomat.

One of Musharraf’s cousins told CBS News that the former leader’s doctors were already seeking medical appointments for him in Britain during the second half of January, “to make certain that the treatment begins as soon as he lands in the U.K.”

Musharraf rose to global prominence after he abandoned his support for neighboring Afghanistan’s Taliban rulers and joined the U.S.-led war on terror, allying himself publically with former U.S. President George W. Bush after Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks.