ISLAMABAD: Former military ruler retired General Pervez Musharraf is expected to testify in two important cases — one relating to Benazir Bhutto’s murder and the other concerning high treason charge — in coming weeks.

He was implicated in the Benazir murder case in 2010 and high treason case in 2013.

An anti-terrorism court (ATC) of Rawalpindi and the special court seized with the high treason case may summon Mr Musharraf to defend himself and counter the evidence produced by prosecutors in the two cases. However, it remains to be seen whether the ‘ailing’ former president will appear personally before the courts to get his statements recorded or testify through a video link.

Proceedings in the Benazir murder case commenced in 2008 and the trial is in its final stages as the prosecution is summoning its last few witnesses.

Under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC), the court would summon the accused persons for recording their statements, said Khawaja Imtiaz, a special prosecutor in the Benazir murder case.

According to him, the accused who will be summoned for recording of statements will include Mr Musharraf, two police officers and four suspects of the Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan.

After the prosecution completes the process of presenting evidence against the accused the court, under Section 342 of CrPC, provides an opportunity to him or her to appear before it and defend himself or herself. In this process, the accused may produce witnesses in his/her defence.

Two police officers — DIG Saud Aziz and SSP Khurram Shehzad — along with Mr Musharraf were nominated as accused persons in 2010 in the Benazir murder case when the Federal Investigation Agency completed its investigation and submitted a challan to the Rawalpindi ATC.

In August 2013, Mr Musharraf was indicted in the case but he denied the charges. He is facing charges of threatening the late PPP chief and denying proper security to her despite numerous threats to her life.

The former military ruler was nominated as the sole accused in the high treason case in December 2013. In March 2014, he was indicted in the case by the special court comprising judges of three different high courts.

The prosecution in the case has presented all the evidence and produced its witnesses before the court. The last prosecution witness testified on Sept 18, 2014.

The court, in its order of the said date, wrote: “The next step is examining of the accused under Section 342 of the CrPC.”

However, the trial virtually stopped after the court, in November 2014, ordered that former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, federal minister Zahid Hamid and former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar be implicated in the case. Mr Aziz, Mr Hamid and Mr Dogar challenged the verdict before the Islamabad High Court (IHC).

Last year the IHC ordered the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) to reinvestigate the case to ascertain role of facilitators in the imposition of emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

In subsequent proceedings, the court sought the progress report from FIA but the trial proceedings remained suspended.

However, the Supreme Court recently asked the special court to continue the trial of Mr Musharraf without waiting for outcome of any reinvestigation.

The court seized with the high treason case will resume proceedings on March 8.

Advocate Mohammad Akram Sheikh, head of prosecution in the case, said the Supreme Court had removed all legal ‘hitches’ in the trial of Mr Musharraf.

According to him, Mr Musharraf has to appear before the court if he wants to defend himself. “I will cross-examine Mr Musharraf after he will record his statement,” he said.

Advocate Faisal Hussain, one of the general’s lawyers, said the former president was not well and it would be difficult for him to personally appear before the court. He said that Mr Musharraf would get his statement recorded through video link and the prosecution might cross-examine him accordingly.

Published in Dawn, March 4th, 2016

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