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Monday, April 15, 2024

Pervez Musharraf case: Lahore High Court Bar Association approaches SC

The civil society and bar associations do not want the federal government to use any technical pretexts to give more relief to the former military dictator. Will the SC pass directions to the special court to announce the decision on November 28 (tomorrow)?

The Lahore High Court Bar Association approached the Supreme Court on Tuesday seeking a directive for the special court to hear the treason case against former president Gen Pervez Musharraf to comply with its earlier observation in which it was held that the trial was a case of paramount importance under the Constitution and should be proceeded with, expeditiously, and with due diligence. The SC is due to take up the matter today. The special court is scheduled to announce the decision by tomorrow.

A three-page petition filed by the bar association requested the apex court to direct the special court and the federal government to follow the April 4, 2019, SC directives. It alleged that the federal government, under one pretext or another, was dragging its feet in presenting and proceeding with the trial and that the special court was not proceeding expeditiously in accordance with the directives of the apex court.

In its earlier order, the SC had stated that control over the proceedings of the trial could not be allowed to vest in the accused. The judgment had also held that Mr. Musharraf would lose his legal right to defense if he failed to turn up before the special court hearing the treason case against him for imposing the Nov 3, 2007, emergency.

Read more: Treason Case: How will Gen. Musharraf benefit from the verdict?

The decree was issued by the SC to help the special court reach a logical end, giving a clear directive to go ahead with the treason case without having to record the statement of Mr. Musharraf under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code in case he did not show up before the trial court. “If the accused avails defense under Section 342, then he should appear before the special court; otherwise, he will lose the right of defense,” the order had stated.

The order had asked the special court to decide on the matter after hearing arguments of the prosecution and if Mr. Musharraf appeared before the trial court, he would have all the normal rights of defense. Further, the order said, the SC would keep the matter pending.

Government’s Request to Postpone the Verdict

On the other hand, the Lahore High Court (LHC) on Tuesday accepted for hearing former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s petition challenging the verdict reserved by the special court in the high treason case against him.

The high court removed its objections and admitted the petition for hearing. The LHC also issued a notice to the federal government and summoned Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan to provide assistance to the court.

Similarly, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) Tuesday summoned secretary Ministry of Law and Justice in response to a petition filed by the Ministry of Interior against the Special Court’s decision to reserve its verdict against the former army chief General Pervez Musharraf (retd) in the high treason case.

A three-member bench of the IHC headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah conducted hearing of the case and deferred the proceedings till Wednesday (today) after issuing the aforementioned directions. Later, the court directed the secretary law and justice to appear before the court in person with a relevant record today (Wednesday) and adjourned the hearing.

“Federal Government is Helping the Former Military Dictator”

Meanwhile, the vice-chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, Syed Amjad Shah, has strongly condemned the filing of a petition in the Islamabad High Court by the government seeking directives for the special court to refrain from announcing its verdict in the high treason case.

“It is difficult to understand why the incumbent government, claiming itself to be a believer in the democratic process and the rule of law, is bent upon helping dictator Gen Musharraf who not only subverted the Constitution by ousting the democratically elected government, but was also the real culprit behind the May 12, 2007 mayhem, when dozens of advocates in Karachi were killed by the MQM provincial government under his dictatorial regime. … thus Musharraf was allegedly a national culprit guilty of the violation of Article 6 of the Constitution,” he said in a statement.

Special Court Reserved the Verdict

A special court in Islamabad on November 20 reserved its verdict in a high treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf for abrogating and subverting the constitution by proclaiming emergency in Nov 2007.

A three-member bench led by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth resumed the hearing, the court was told that the former president’s lawyer was absent on account of Umrah.

Read more: Will Former Military Dictator Pervez Musharraf Be Convicted in Absentia?

Following this, Justice Seth said that the former president’s lawyer had been given a third chance to submit his arguments, but still he chose to skip the court.

However, the court took a short break and later announced that a verdict in the case has been reserved and will be announced on Tuesday, Nov 26. Additionally, the court said that Musharraf’s counsel could submit written arguments by Nov 26.

Background of the Case

Musharraf is being trialed for imposing emergency in 2007 and detaining the judges of the Supreme Court of Pakistan. A case was registered against him in 2013 and his name was placed in the Exit Control List (ECL) by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) on the directives of the Sindh High Court (SHC). Later on, the Supreme Court of Pakistan allowed Musharraf to go abroad for his medical check-up and his name was removed from the ECL.

Moreover, the special court has declared Mr. Musharraf an absconder, issued perpetual warrants of his arrest and commenced proceedings under Section 87, 88 CrPC for attachment of his properties on July 19, 2016. On April 29, 2018, an application was filed by the federal government to give verdict on high treason case against Musharraf as early as possible.

The application titled “Federal Government of Pakistan versus retired General Pervez Musharraf” read “The turn of events have unfolded and he [Musharraf] has categorically made statement to the media abroad that he left the country with the help of his institution thereby casting aspersions on our armed forces and its then chief retired Gen Raheel Sharif.”

Read more: Pervez Musharraf case: Why did government file petition to postpone verdict?

It further mentioned that “it is a matter of common knowledge that shortly after leaving Pakistan he was seen on videos shared on social media sites where he is swaying to the beats of the music in wedding festivities and during his three months preferred stay in Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) he did not receive a single tablet of aspirin or underwent any angiogram test as according to him at that time the angiogram posed a potential threat to his life”.

Avoid Musharraf’s case, Ch. Shujat advise PM Khan

According to media reports, President of Pakistan Muslim League (PML) and former Prime Minister Chaudhary Shujat Hussain has suggested the Prime Minister not to focus on the former military dictator’s case. “The premier should focus on the welfare of the people,” he said.

Chaudhary Shujat Hussain advised PM Imran Khan not to get into new problems for his government which is already facing several challenges ranging from political instability to economic crisis. He focused on the point that protests against the government are not over as yet. Therefore, the PML-Q President pointed out, that the PTI’s government must avoid any new battle.

Moreover, he also spoke about the economic crisis and alluding to filing a petition in this regard. “I have asked my legal experts that our party should file an appeal in the Supreme Court so that it could be determined who is really responsible for the level on which price hike, unemployment and other matters have reached, previous governments, last government or the present government”, he added.

Prime Minister Imran Khan is trying to save the former military dictator?

Analysts believe that the government must have not entered into a politically ‘no-go area’ since Prime Minister Imran Khan always maintained that he would stand by the rule of law. “Nobody is above the law. There needs to be one Pakistan where the powerful and weaker get the same treatment from the courts,” he has said. But a petition by his government just three days before the special court is set to announce the verdict is ‘dismaying’ for many of his supporters who expected otherwise from him.