Govt, Musharraf’s ‘abettors’ weighing legal options

Updated November 29, 2014


Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. - AFP/File
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf. - AFP/File

ISLAMABAD: While the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) is still trying to figure out how to proceed on a special court’s order regarding the implication of former president Pervez Musharraf’s abettors in the treason case, the co-accused have engaged legal counsel to defend themselves.

Former prime minister Shaukat Aziz discussed the special court order and its possible repercussions against his person with former Senate chairman, Barrister Wasim Sajjad. Former federal minister Zahid Hamid has engaged former Punjab advocate general Khawaja Haris, while Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar has been discussing the matter with his attorneys to decide how to appeal against the order.

Barrister Sajjad confirmed to Dawn that the former prime minister had approached him and discussed the special court’s order in some detail. However, he refused to comment further, saying that his discussion with “his client” was “privileged communication” and that things were at the initial stage.

Former PM Aziz, Zahid Hamid and Justice Dogar engaging counsel, govt team considers appealing against order

“At this stage, I can only confirm that Mr Shaukat Aziz has been in touch with me; we have discussed the treason case,” he said.

Similarly, Khawaja Haris also told Dawn that Zahid Hamid had discussed the case with him. The Lahore-based lawyer has now arrived in Islamabad, ostensibly to discuss his strategy with Mr Hamid.

Justice Dogar told Dawn that he was also looking to challenge the special court order as he had no role in the imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007, which was the basis of the federal government’s treason case against Gen Musharraf.

“I have discussed the order with my lawyers and will make a decision in a couple of days after consulting them,” he said.

He was of the opinion that the order could be challenged in the Supreme Court or a writ against the order could be filed in the high court.

A lawyer close to Justice Dogar said that instead of just one attorney, a panel of senior advocates would represent Justice Dogar in the court.

The special court, headed by Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court (SHC), on November 21 directed the federal government to implicate former PM Aziz, Mr Hamid and Justice Dogar as co-accused in the treason case.

This order was passed on a petition, filed by the former military ruler’s legal team, seeking to include those who abetted the retired general in imposing a state of emergency. Before this, Musharraf was the sole accused in the complaint filed by the government before the special court in December.

The special court’s order states: “the record shows that steps for removal and appointment of the judges were taken with undue haste on the very same day i.e. November 3, 2007 by the then federal law minister and the then prime minister, instantly supplementing the purpose with which the emergency of November 3 was imposed and instruments like PCO and the Oath of Office (Judges) Order 2007 were issued.”

Regarding Justice Dogar, the court observed that unlike his fellow judges, Justice Dogar was not removed from office. According to the court order, Justice Dogar was fourth on the seniority list of Supreme Court judges, but was made chief justice of Pakistan “within a span of only few hours of imposition of 2007 emergency”.

Sources close to the government’s legal team that is examining the special court’s order told Dawn that the government is considering three options.

One option is the filing of an appeal against the order in the Supreme Court. The government can also file a presidential reference, under Article 186 of the Constitution and seek an opinion on the legality of the special court order.

Article 186 (1) states, “If at any time, the president considers that it is desirable to obtain the opinion of the Supreme Court on any question of law which he considers of public importance, he may refer the question to the Supreme Court for consideration.”

Section 2 of the same article reads, “The Supreme Court shall consider a question so referred and report its opinion on the question to the president.”

The third option available with the government is to file a writ petition in the high court against the special court order, sources said.

A member of the government legal team told Dawn that they were examining the special court order quite carefully as it was the first of its kind in the history of Pakistan.

“We don’t have previous legal precedent on the basis of which we can make a decision,” he said.

The government doesn’t want to make a hasty decision and wants concrete steps taken to deal with the order, he further said. We are also discussing this matter with key legal experts as well, he added.

Advocate Mohammad Akram Sheikh, the lead prosecutor in the treason case told Dawn that after the special court’s order of December 21, he had also been consulted by the government.

“The government has sought my opinion, which I provided,” he said.

Published in Dawn, November 29th, 2014