Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa on Thursday said that the statement of former president Pervez Musharraf — who is facing a treason case — can be recorded through a video link if the retired army chief refuses to return to Pakistan.
The remarks were made during the hearing of a petition filed by Taufeeq Asif, the ex-president of Lahore High Court's Rawalpindi bench's bar association, which pointed out that the proceedings of the treason case — being heard by a special court — had come to a halt since Musharraf had not returned to the country since 2016.
The bench hearing Asif's petition regretted that the proceedings were in a limbo even though a special court had been constituted to hear the treason case against Musharraf.
The former president has been indicted in a high treason case for suspending the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007. He left for Dubai in 2016 to "seek medical treatment" and hasn't returned since.
The chief justice, during today's hearing, inquired about the steps taken so far by the federal government to bring the former president back to Pakistan. Referring to the notion that the court had excluded Musharraf's name from the ECL (Exit Control List), he said: "It was not the court [that let Musharraf leave], the government let him go."
"It was the government's responsibility to place Musharraf's name on the ECL as well as to bring him back to the country."
The chief justice said that Musharraf's statement could be recorded through a video link.
"If he still refuses to record a statement, then [the special court] can assume that he [Musharraf] has denied all charges," the top judge remarked, adding: "The special court can write 'denied' before every statement by the suspect."
"Should the court become hostage to a suspect? Do courts become helpless if a suspect does not show up?" Justice Khosa asked. He declared that no suspect was "big or small" as everyone was equal before the law.
He reiterated his resolve to wrap up "unimportant cases" and informed the court that the number of pending cases had reduced by 2,000 over the past one and a half month.
"All judges have played their role in reducing the backlog of cases," Justice Khosa said.
The chief justice directed special court's registrar to submit a report on the delay in the case's proceedings within 15 days. He also told the attorney general to submit the Centre's response regarding the steps taken to bring Musharraf back to Pakistan. The hearing of the case was adjourned until March 25.
Musharraf treason case
A special court — that was formed to hear the case against the former military dictator — indicted Gen Musharraf for high treason in March 2014. The prosecution laid its evidence by September same year.
A five-member Supreme Court bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Anwar Zaheer Jamali, while hearing a pending federal government appeal against a 2014 Sindh High Court (SHC) order removing Musharraf's name from the ECL, upheld the ruling in 2016, allowing the former president to travel abroad for medical treatment.
The top court's order, however, did not preclude the federal government and special court's proceedings against Musharraf from passing any appropriate legal order for regulating his custody or movement.