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The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday ordered that national identity card (CNIC) and passport of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf be unblocked so that he is able to return to the country.

The order was issued after National Database and Registration Authority (NADRA) Chairman Usman Mobin was spotted sitting in on a full-bench hearing for a separate case by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Saqib Nisar.

When Justice Nisar asked Mobin why he was in court, the NADRA chairman — who was called to the rostrum by the CJP — said that although the SC had last week allowed Musharraf to submit his nomination papers if he returned to Pakistan for a court hearing on June 13, the former dictator would not be able to since his CNIC and passport had been blocked.

The Interior Ministry had earlier issued directives to NADRA and the Directorate General of Immigration and Passports to suspend Musharraf's CNIC and passport in compliance with the order of a special court conducting a treason trial against the former president.

"Why would you block the card? To give him a reason to not return?" the CJP asked Mobin. "Musharraf should return and face the cases against him," he asserted.

On Mobin's verbal request seeking formal directives about what must be done about Musharraf's travel and ID documents, the CJP ordered that his CNIC and passport be unblocked.

The top judge also reiterated his earlier order that the former military ruler should not be arrested on his way to court from the airport.

The CJP also issued an order stating that a tribunal be formed within two days to conduct the pending treason trial against Musharraf.

Case history

The Peshawar High Court had in April 2013 disqualified Musharraf for life in view of a July 31, 2009 judgement in which the Nov 3, 2007 emergency imposed by Musharraf was declared illegal.

Following his disqualification, Musharraf's nomination papers for Karachi's NA-250 seat in the polls that year were rejected by a returning officer 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 Muhammad Chaudhry.

Musharraf's appeal against the PHC judgement in the Supreme Court questioned whether — by disqualifying the former ruler from contesting elections for the National Assembly, provincial assemblies or Senate or holding a public office — the court had not failed at the touchstone of legal and constitutional parameters settled by the Constitution and human rights declarations.

In a separate case, Musharraf was charged with high treason in December 2013 by a special court and indicted on March 31, 2014. The trial remained suspended after the court in November 2014 ordered a re-investigation into the case to identify any abettors in the imposition of emergency in November 2007.

The former military dictator left for Dubai in 2016 to 'seek medical treatment' and has not returned since.