RAWALPINDI, Pakistan — In an unprecedented ruling that tests the military's aura of inviolability, a court indicted former president and army chief Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday on murder charges stemming from the 2007 assassination of former Prime Minister Bhutto.
Musharraf, who became a key U.S. ally in the wake of the Sept. 11, attacks, pleaded not guilty.
The decision by the court in Rawalpindi marked the first time a current or former army chief has been charged with a crime in the country.
Musharraf, a 70-year-old former commando who took power in a 1999 coup and stepped down from office in disgrace nearly a decade later, now faces a string of legal problems that in many ways challenge the military's sacrosanct status in Pakistani society.
He was charged with murder, conspiracy to commit murder and facilitation for murder, said prosecutor Chaudhry Muhammed Azhar.
Prosecutors have alleged Musharraf failed to provide enough protection to Bhutto as she led her Pakistan People's Party in a parliamentary election that might have given her a third term as prime minister. She was killed in a gun and bomb attack at a rally in Rawalpindi, near the capital, Islamabad.
Bhutto's supporters say Musharraf ignored requests for additional security, and a 2010 U.N. report on her death said he failed to make serious efforts to ensure Bhutto's safety.
Musharraf's supporters have described the Bhutto case and others against him as politically motivated.
"These are all fabricated cases. There is nothing solid in all these cases," said Afshan Adil, a member of Musharraf's legal team.