ISLAMABAD: Despite a court order issued in the high treason case against former military dictator Pervez Musharraf on March 8 and more than a week after the expiry of a deadline given by the interior ministry to him to return, the ministry has not suspended his travel document lending credence to reports that the federal government is reluctant to implement the court order.
A three-judge special court seized with the high treason case had asked the interior ministry to suspend the retired general’s passport and computerised national identity card (CNIC) besides taking steps for his extradition through Interpol, but Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal on March 16 restrained the National Database and Registration Authority (Nadra) and the directorate general of the immigration and passport from suspending the documents upon expectation of his possible return.
Sources said the interior ministry wrongly interpreted the court order to benefit the former military dictator in this case.
The trial of the former army chief who now heads the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) has been pending since March 31, 2016, when he was supposed to testify before the special court under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code but he had already left the country before the date and never returned. He has been declared absconder in the case.
In addition to the high treason case, Gen Musharraf has also been declared proclaimed offender by courts in some other cases including the judges’ detention case and Benazir Bhutto assassination case.
According to senior joint secretary of interior ministry Dilshad Babar, the operating paragraph of March 8 order of the special court stated that in case “the accused [Gen Musharraf] intends to appear before this court on March 21, 2018, he may within seven days approach the ministry of interior in writing for the requisite protection that was offered by the head of prosecution on May 19, 2017”.
A day after the court direction, the bench was dissolved as its head recused himself from further hearing.
Sources in the prosecution said the interior ministry was approached for the implementation of the special court order. They said the interior ministry ‘misinterpreted’ the direction for suspending the passport and CNIC of retired Gen Musharraf to benefit him.
“The prosecution informed Interior Minister Ahsan Iqbal in writing that Senior Joint Secretary Dilshad Babar had misinterpreted the court order and in fact the ministry is committing a contempt of court for not suspending the passport and CNIC of the accused person,” the sources added.
Mr Babar said that since the counsel for the former military dictator, Advocate Akhtar Shah, had submitted an application to the interior ministry regarding his possible return, the ministry did not block his travel and identity documents. In his letter, Mr Shah had told the interior ministry that retired general Musharraf was ready to join the trial proceedings and face the charges.
While the counsel for the former army chief still claimed that he would return to pursue all the cases, insiders said certain quarters did not want his return, because the resumption of the trial would revive the controversy related to reinvestigation to determine his aides and abettors in the case.
Retired general Musharraf said the judges who took oath under the Provisional Constitution Order (PCO), several senior retired army officers as well as politicians were among his aides and abettors.
In an application filed in 2014, the former military dictator alleged that the former chief of army staff retried Gen Ashfaq Pervez Kayani, former naval chief Afzal Tahir and former chief of air staff Tanvir Mehmood Ahmed, the entire corps commanders under his regime were involved in imposing a state of emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.
The other abettors, he stated, were Sheikh Rashid Ahmed, Jehangir Khan Tareen, Ghulam Sarwar Khan, Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri, Zahid Hamid, Humayun Akhtar Khan, Dr Ghazi Gulab Jamal, Makhdoom Faisal Saleh Hayat, Chaudhry Nouraiz Shakoor, Ijazul Haq, Rao Sikandar Iqbal, Aftab Ahmed Khan Sherpao, Babar Khan Ghauri, Zubaida Jalal, Dr Abdul Hafeez Sheikh, Syed Safwanullah, Awais Ahmed Khan Leghari, Liaqat Ali Jatoi, Sardar Yar Mohammad Khan Rind, Ghaus Bakhsh Mahar, Naseer Khan, Ajmal Khan, retired general Javed Ashraf Qazi, late Sher Afgan Niazi, late Justice Abdur Razzaq Thaeem, retired major Habibullah Warriach and retired major Tahir Iqbal, Chaudhry Wasi Zafar, Chaudhry Shahbaz Hussain, Amanullah Khan Jadoon, Shamim Siddiqi, Mushtaq Ali Cheema and Mian Shamim Haider.
Published in Dawn, April 1st, 2018