There is strong evidence to support the charge of high treason against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and his punishment could be either the death penalty or life imprisonment, the Pakistan government's top law officer said on Wednesday.
Under Article 6 of the Constitution, which covers treason, the retired general could face death or life imprisonment, Attorney General Munir Malik said. An early verdict in the case against Musharraf is possible, he added.
He also did not rule out the possibility that Musharraf could be re-arrested during the proceedings. The Federal Investigation Agency would have the authority to carry out his arrest, he said.
In a related development, Law Secretary Zafarullah Khan said a summary of the case against Musharraf has been sent to President Mamnoon Hussain for approval.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif on Tuesday approved the names of three judges for a special court that will try the 70-year-old Musharraf for subverting the constitution and imposing emergency in 2007.
This is the first time the civilian administration has sought the criminal prosecution of a military ruler.
In the event of Musharraf's re-arrest, the special court will have the jurisdiction to grant him bail and only the president will have the power to pardon him, Malik said.
The recording of evidence will not take long and a decision will be made quickly by the special court, he said. As soon as the special court receives a formal complaint, the FIA will be authorised to make the arrest, he added.
Speaking to reporters outside the Supreme Court, Malik said the special court will listen if the accused appeals.
Musharraf was recently granted bail in four major cases, including one over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto in 2007. However, he is barred from travelling out of Pakistan as his name is on the Interior Ministry's Exit Control List.
The special court comprises Justice Faisal Arab of Sindh High Court, Justice Tahira Safdar of Balochistan High Court and Justice Yawar Ali of Lahore High Court.
Musharraf's spokesperson has described the government's decision to put him on trial as a "vicious attempt to undermine the Pakistan military".
The military has ruled Pakistan for about half of its 66-year history and no ruler or top military commander has ever faced criminal prosecution.
The PML-N government's critics have said the move is aimed at diverting attention from its failure to prevent sectarian violence in several cities, including Rawalpindi, last week.
Since Musharraf returned to Pakistan from self-exile in March, he has faced prosecution in four major cases, including one over the assassination of former premier Benazir Bhutto.