KARACHI - The Sindh High Court on Monday said it was unable to lift travel ban on former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, a day before his trial for treason was due to start.

Musharraf's lawyer petitioned the high court last month to remove the retired general's name from the exit control list, so that he could leave the country to visit his sick mother in Dubai. The 70-year-old has faced a range of criminal cases since his return from a self-imposed exile in March. But there have been rumours that a deal would be struck to let him leave the country, to avoid the all-powerful military being embarrassed by having its former chief tried by civilians.

The court advised the former military ruler to approach the federal government for excluding his name from the exit control list. Musharraf’s lawyer AQ Halepoto said the court had ruled that the government had imposed the travel ban and that the matter did not fall within the court’s jurisdiction.  The court had reserved verdict to be announced later. "A two-member bench of the Sindh High Court has ruled that it did not put Musharraf's name on the ECL," Halepoto told a foreign news agency.

He said the court asked the petitioner to contact the appropriate forum – the government.

Musharraf has faced criminal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule since returning to Pakistan, including the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto.

He was granted bail in the four main cases against him but remains under guard at his farmhouse on the edge of Islamabad because of threats by Taliban insurgents to his life.

Last month the government announced it would put him on trial for treason and he has been ordered to appear before a special court on December 24.

It will be the first time in Pakistan's history that a former military ruler will face a treason trial.

Speaking publicly last week for the first time since being put under house arrest in April, Musharraf vowed to face justice and not flee the country. London lawyers for Musharraf on Friday slammed the treason trial as politically motivated and urged the United Nations to intervene. They also called on the United States and Britain to "repay their debt" for Musharraf's support in the US-led war on terror in the wake of the 9/11 attacks.

It may be mentioned here that the government had barred Musharraf from going abroad as he had previously been arrested in at least three murder cases, including the 2007 assassination of Benazir Bhutto.

Courts have now granted him bails in three cases. However his name has not yet been removed from the exit control list.