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Pakistan's caretaker government on Monday refused to put former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on trial for treason, telling the Supreme Court that it was beyond its mandate.
The move will provide at least temporary breathing room to Musharraf, who is now under house arrest in connection with one of three other cases dating back to his 1999-2008 period in office, being heard in the lower courts.
The interim administration took office last month, guiding the nuclear-armed country of 180 million towards historic general elections on May 11. It will step down after the new, elected government takes office.
"Considering, deliberating or commencing any legal proceedings pursuant to Article 6 of the constitution will be a measure not in the mandate of the caretaker government for the following," it said in a statement to the court.
The statement was read out as the Supreme Court hears a petition from lawyers demanding that Musharraf face trial for treason for subverting the constitution.
In Pakistan only the state can initiate charges of treason, which carry the death penalty.
The government said it needed "to confine their work to day-to-day routine matters" and "maintain the status quo" for the incoming elected government.
"As per the said practices, the caretaker government should avoid taking any controversial step and should not commit any process that is not reversible by the incoming elected government," it added.