ISLAMABAD, April 9: The Supreme Court on Tuesday turned down a request made by petitioners in the treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf for his arrest and also exempted him from appearing in person during initial hearings.
The court turned down a request by Ahmed Raza Kasuri, counsel for retired Gen Musharraf, for putting off the proceedings till May 20 because of his client’s engagements in election-related matters and directed him to submit a reply by the next date of hearing — April 15.
The bench observed that “personal presence of Gen Musharraf is not required as yet” and allowed representation through counsel.
A two-judge bench, comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khwaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain, had taken up on Monday five identical petitions seeking the trial of General retired Musharraf under article 6 (high treason) for imposing the emergency in Nov 2007.
Mr Kasuri argued that the proceedings in the ‘high treason’ case would open a Pandora’s box because there were ‘pardah nasheen’ (big but unnameable names) along with Gen Musharraf in the emergency episode.
“Gen Musharraf was not alone; there were many other army officers with him, including the incumbent Chief of Army Staff, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, but the petitioners did not name them.
At this, the bench observed that the court should not be deterred by such statements; the case was as important as the one regarding a dispute over a two marla-plot of land and “we don’t care if the names of ‘pardah nasheen’ are unveiled”.
“The petitioners have raised some legal points and you are supposed to satisfy the court on these,” the bench said.
The counsel for Gen Musharraf alleged that the petitioners wanted to keep the former president away from voters as well as politics.
Mr Kasuri said although Gen Musharraf had the highest regard for the Supreme Court, he had certain reservations about some judges.
Justice Khawaja said: “If you have reservations then please tell us and if we are not acceptable to him (Musharraf) another bench may be constituted for hearing the petitions. There is nothing unpalatable for us, except the indecency.”
Ahmed Raza Kasuri said he was one of the most senior lawyers of the country and was a parliamentarian in 1972 when “most of the incumbent judges were in school”.
Ahsanuddin Sheikh, one of the petitioners and former president of the Lahore High Court Bar, Rawalpindi division, asked Mr Kasuri not to pass such remarks.
But Mr Kasuri continued with such arguments and claimed that Gen Musharraf had led the country to success, but the democratic government did not deliver to the people anything, except poverty, loadshedding and other social evils.
He alleged that the petitioners wanted to trap Gen Musharraf in litigation in order to sabotage his election campaign. He recalled that Interpol had rejected a request of the government for the arrest of Gen Musharraf in the Benazir Bhutto assassination case.
Mr Kasuri appealed to the bench to adjourn the proceedings to May 20, saying there was no reason for haste, but his request was turned down by the court.
An official of the interior ministry submitted a compliance report and informed the court that the name of Gen Musharraf name was already on the exit control list and after the court’s Monday order, another circular had also been issued. He said the court order and the circular had been sent to all airports, sea ports and checkpoints at all exit points in the country.