In an unprecedented judgement in the nation’s history, the special court hearing the high treason case against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf sentenced the former military dictator to death.
Musharraf has been on trial for high treason for imposing a state of emergency in 2007, and a special court was constituted by then prime minister Nawaz Sharif to try Musharraf for violating the Constitution.
The verdict was split 2-1 and the detailed judgement will be issued with in the next two days. The former military ruler is currently residing and under treatment in Dubai.
“Pervez Musharraf has been found guilty of Article 6 for violation of the constitution of Pakistan,” government law officer Salman Nadeem said.
“Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution by use of force or show force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason,” states Article 6 of the Constitution.
A three-member special court comprising Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court (PHC) Waqar Seth, Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court (SHC) and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court (LHC) was hearing the case.
Earlier in the hearing, on behalf of the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government, the prosecution team, led by Advocate Ali Zia Bajwa, prayed upon the court to amend the indictment against the former military ruler.
Bajwa said the government wants to frame charges against former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, Abdul Hamid Dogar, and Zahid Hamid. “It is imperative for all accused to be tried simultaneously. The aiders and abettors should be tried as well.”
The bench remarked that the Supreme Court had already decided on the matter and gave the government two weeks to submit a new charge sheet.
Justice Karim also wondered whether the government was using delaying tactics in the treason case against Musharraf. He said the government should file a new complaint if it wanted to add additional names in the high treason trial.
When Justice Waqar told the prosecutor to present his arguments in the case, Bajwa requested for further time to file a formal request. “If you cannot present arguments then leave the rostrum,” said an irked Justice Waqar.
The bench again observed that the special court was only bound to follow the apex court’s judgments and not the judgements originating from high courts.
During the hearing, Musharraf’s counsel Raza Bashir also sought 15 to 20 days for his client to record a statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPc). “Musharraf deserves a right to fair trial,” he said.
Justice Akbar noted that the former army chief had been provided six opportunities to record a statement but he failed to appear. Justice Waqar added that the special court had allowed Musharraf to appear before the bench at his convenience as well.
“Musharraf deserves a right to defend himself,” reiterated Bashir. “The prosecution team and his counsel are both already defending him before the bench,” observed Justice Akbar.
The special court will review the request to form a commission over matter pertaining to recording Musharraf’s statement under Section 342.
The court was expected to announce verdict today after hearing arguments from the newly-appointed prosecution team. The decision was reserved on November 19 and was originally fixed to be announced on November 28.
However, the PTI government, through the office of the interior ministry via the attorney general for Pakistan, filed a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) seeking to restrain the special court “from passing final judgment”.
The IHC bench stopped the special court from issuing the verdict and directed the government to notify a new prosecution team by December 5.
It may be mentioned here that the government in October sacked the entire prosecution team, hired by the previous government of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz.
On December 5, Prosecutor Advocate Ali Zia Bajwa had sought a “reasonable amount of time” to prepare arguments. He was given until December 17.
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 and indicted on March 31, 2014.
Courtesy to litigation at appellate forums, the trial was delayed and the former army chief was allowed by the courts as well as the interior ministry to leave Pakistan in March 2016.