The Pakistan Army said on Tuesday that the “due legal process” was not followed in the high treason case against its former chief Pervez Musharraf. Retired army officers have also strongly reacted to the development and demanded free and fair legal process in the said case.
In a statement, the military’s media wing said that the army received the decision of the special court handing Musharraf a death sentence under Article 6 of the Constitution “with lot of pain and anguish”. “An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defense of the country can surely never be a traitor,” the ISPR statement said.
Statement on decision by Special court about General Pervez Musharraf, Retired. pic.twitter.com/C9UAMT1E4W
— DG ISPR (@OfficialDGISPR) December 17, 2019
A special court bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth of the Peshawar High Court, Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court had on Tuesday convicted Musharraf for high treason and handed him the death penalty. The ISPR’s statement said that Musharraf was denied the “fundamental right of self-defense” and the case was concluded in haste.
It is worth mentioning that the high treason case was filed against the former president by the PML-N government in 2013 for clamping the state of emergency on November 3, 2007. Musharraf was booked in the high treason case in December 2013.
A special court — that was formed to hear the case against the former military dictator — indicted Gen Musharraf for high treason in March 2014. The prosecution laid its evidence by September same year. Musharraf was repeatedly asked by former CJP Saqib Nisar to come to Pakistan and defend his actions. Musharraf demanded an assurance that he will not be arrested, the CJP accepted the request, and said “let Musharraf return to Pakistan, no one will arrest him,” on October 11, 2018.
Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on March 7, 2019 said that the statement of former president Pervez Musharraf — who is facing a treason case — can be recorded through a video link under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure if the retired army chief refuses to return to Pakistan. Musharraf did not agree.
Retired Army officers react to the verdict
The News reported the opinions of retired army officers on the verdict. Major General (retired) Awan, reacting to the special court ruling, had said the verdict highlighted the different standards of justice for different people in the country. “I strongly reject declaring the former COAS, who fought wars for Pakistan, as a traitor,” he maintained.
Brig (retired) Nawaz, commenting on the verdict against the former army chief, had last night said that the reaction of the army against the judgment was entirely justified as the statement given out by ISPR was reflective of the reaction of the entire Pakistan Army to the court ruling.
Lieut Gen (retd) Talat Masood also weighed in on the verdict, saying that neither Gen (retd) Musharraf, nor his legal team, seriously contested the case. He said that if the former COAS had appeared in the court or recorded his statement through video link, perhaps things would have been different.
The decision to hand the death penalty to the former military dictator be challenged in the Supreme court, Advocate Salman Safdar, lead counsel of the former military ruler announced in a press conference on Tuesday.
Advocate Safdar noted that the trial was unconstitutional and laws were neglected during the process. He said that Musharraf was denied the right to a fair trial. The former dictator’s counsel said that the case was decided in a hurry and declared that the decision was “worse than the decision to hang [former prime minister] Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto” — who was sentenced to death in a murder case.