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Pakistan ex-leader Pervez Musharraf indicted on treason charges

ISLAMABAD -- A Pakistani court indicted the country's former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf on five counts of treason Monday in the latest legal fallout surrounding his actions in 2007, when, as president, he declared a nationwide state of emergency and had dozens of judges and civil society activists arrested.

Musharraf denied the charges, which carry a possible death sentence under Pakistani law. He has always insisted the charges were politically motivated.

Western officials who have followed the ongoing trial closely believe the former army chief is unlikely to face such a harsh sentence, however, as Pakistan's powerful army still enjoys a huge amount of political clout in the nation, and is believed to be protecting its former leader.

Monday's indictment was preceded by mounting speculation that the army is working quietly behind the scenes with current Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government to facilitate a move into exile by Musharraf, possibly to the United Arab Emirates. On Saturday, Musharraf's ailing mother, who lives in the UAE, was hospitalized. Analysts say that could strengthen Musharraf's chances of escaping into exile on the pretext of visiting his mother.

A senior government official who spoke to CBS News on the condition of anonymity after Monday's indictment, however, cautioned that "nothing is certain yet."

Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
Former Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, center, surrounded by guards arrives at a court in Karachi, Pakistan, March 29, 2013. AP
After Monday's indictment, Musharraf's lawyer asked the court to allow the former leader to travel outside Pakistan to visit his mother. Unexpectedly, early reports suggested that Akram Sheikh, the government prosecutor in the case, was not opposing the request.

Later on Monday however, the court turned down Musharraf's request to travel abroad on the grounds that such a decision can only be made by Sharif's government. Musharraf's name has been added to the official "exit control list" -- a list of Pakistani nationals who are barred from leaving the country.

Musharraf was hospitalized at the Pakistani army's main cardiac hospital in Rawalpindi, just outside Islamabad, in January after he complained of chest pains. Politicians close to Sharif have said accused the army of admitting Musharraf to the hospital to help him avoid facing trial, or possible time in jail.

While Pakistan returned to democracy in 2008, after Musharraf stepped down following a nine-year rule, the army remains a central force in both security matters and politics as the nation continues to face a violent insurgency from Taliban militants and other related groups.

In recent months, Sharif's government has sought a peace settlement with the Taliban, though without any success so far toward resolving the conflict between the security forces and hardline Islamic militants. Analysts say Pakistan's army will likely remain a central force in holding the country together, particularly amid warnings that security conditions are likely to worsen in the region as U.S.-led forces pull out of neighboring Afghanistan by the end of 2014.

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