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ISLAMABAD: Reacting to the Supreme Court’s decision to offer former military dictator retired General Pervez Musharraf a chance to file nomination papers to contest the July 25 elections on the condition that he return to Pakistan and appear before the apex court, ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif questioned how the chief justice of Pakistan (CJP) could give such relaxation to a person accused of high treason.

On Thursday, a three-judge bench, headed by CJP Mian Saqib Nisar, had taken up Mr Musharraf’s plea against his 2013 disqualification for life by the Peshawar High Court. The High Court had disqualified him in view of a July 31, 2009 judgement in which the emergency imposed on Nov 3, 2007 was declared illegal.

Following his disqualification in April 2013, a returning officer rejected Gen Musharraf’s nomination papers to contest elections from Karachi’s NA-250 seat, on the grounds that he had held in abeyance and suspended the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007, detained and removed a number of superior court judges and publicly insulted then chief justice Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry.

Complains that his plea for three-day exemption from appearing in court was rejected

CJP Nisar on Thursday said if Mr Musharraf submitted his nomination papers, the RO would receive them, however, he cautioned that the fate of the papers would be subject to the final decision in the present case.

Speaking to journalists before the final arguments in the Avenfield Properties reference were about to commence at the accountability court on Friday, Mr Sharif said it was beyond comprehension that Gen Musharraf had been permitted to contest the elections. “How could the chief justice extend such an offer to someone accused of high treason?” he asked.

He expressed his astonishment, asking: “Is there any law which can empower someone sitting in high office to give assurance to a military dictator who is facing a high treason case, who is accused in the Akbar Bugti murder case and the Benazir murder case, as well as judges’ detention case and for the Lal Masjid operation?”

On the other hand, the former prime minister added, the same court had disqualified him from holding office in his own political party, removed him from the office of prime minister, and barred him from contesting elections for life on the charge that he had not received a salary from his son.

“This is something which is beyond my understanding, and the nation is also surprised over how the court could relax rules for a person accused of high treason,” he said, adding that this meant that if someone abrogated the law, they could obtain bail directly from the chief justice, even though there was no such provision in the law.

“While Musharraf has been offered such relaxation, my plea for three-day exemption from appearing in court was turned down,” said the ousted premier, adding that he had wanted to go visit his ailing wife Kulsoom Nawaz, who is currently undergoing treatment for cancer in London.

Mr Musharraf was charged with high treason in December 2013 and indicted in the case on March 31, 2014. The trial was suspended after a special court in November 2014 ordered a reinvestigation of the case to identify any abettors in the imposition of the emergency declared in November 2007.

In addition to a treason trial, retired Mr Musharraf faces a number of criminal cases. The former military dictator left for Dubai to “seek medical treatment” and has not since returned.

Published in Dawn, June 9th, 2018