ISLAMABAD: After announcing on Monday that his government had decided to try former president retired General Pervez Musharraf on treason charges, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif discussed the future course of action on the case with Attorney General Muneer A. Malik on Tuesday.
On a directive of the Supreme Court, the government will apprise it on Wednesday about the steps required under the law to put an individual on trial under Article 6 of the constitution, which carries capital punishment or life imprisonment.
The media wing of the prime minister’s office issued a press statement only confirming the meeting between the prime minister and the attorney general during which they discussed “legal and constitutional issues”.
Of course, the most important constitutional and legal issue the government is confronting at the moment is the trial of Pervez Musharraf for imposing an emergency on Nov 3, 2007, an act the Supreme Court had already declared unconstitutional.
Mr Malik was not available for comment.
S.M. Zafar, a veteran lawmaker and SC lawyer, told Dawn that under the constitution the government would have to appoint the secretary of interior, a designated or a focal person to file a formal complaint against Mr Musharraf. The statutory regulatory order (SRO) issued in 1994 explains how to lodge a complaint under Article 6 of the constitution.
After filing the complaint, the government, in consultation with the chief justice of Pakistan, will appoint a three-man special court of high court judges under Section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976, to conduct the trial. The jurisdiction of the special court to try any person under treason is exclusive and no other court has the jurisdiction to hear or interfere with this trial.
Since the government had made a written commitment before the court that the former army chief would be put on trial, there was no going backwards, explained Mr Zafar when asked how the government would go ahead with the case. However, according to him, the PML-N government had chosen a wrong time. “I don’t like it. I don’t have good feelings about this case.
“I can’t comment how the government will and should proceed with the trial, it will have to be very careful considering enormity of the case as it involves a former president who was also an army chief,” said Mr Zafar.
Talking to Dawn, Information Minister Pervez Rashid said since the attorney general was dealing with the case, he would inform the court about the government’s future course of action on the trial. He said it was a legal issue, and let it be discussed within the court, adding the constitution was clear on how to go ahead in such cases.
He refused to accept a perception that the government had raised the issue of General Musharraf’s trial to detract people’s attention from other issues like loadshedding, militancy and bad economy.
But a senior PML-N leader close to the leadership said: “A go-slow policy will be followed in the case and that’s what suits the government, considering the challenges it is faced with in the form of electricity crisis and near economic meltdown.”
A JUI-F spokesman, Jan Achakzai, said nobody was against the trial of General Musharraf, but since it was a complicated case, it needed deft handling.
He said the government could ill-afford to delve into such an issue which has the potential to snowball into a bigger problem in the coming days.
Asad Umar of the PTI said that a truth and reconciliation commission was the need of the hour. He said General Musharraf’s case would be decided in the coming days, but wondered about the fate of the Asghar Khan case in which the sitting prime minister and his party had been accused of receiving money to manipulate elections. That act amounted to subverting the constitution, too, he added.
“We have to get out of the blame-game and steer the country out of its current woes which unfortunately are too many,” Mr Umar said in a TV talk show.