ISLAMABAD: The three-judge special court on Tuesday adjourned hearing of a high treason case against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf till Oct 24.

Earlier, the federal government appointed Chief Justice of the Peshawar High Court Waqar Ahmed Seth as head of the three-member bench in place of former Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court Tahira Safdar who earlier this month retired after attaining the age of superannuation.

When the special court comprising Justice Seth, Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court resumed hearing, defence counsel Raza Bashir was not in attendance.

The registrar informed the court that Advocate Bashir had sought adjournment of the case since he was suffering from dengue fever.

Subsequently, the court adjourned the proceedings till Oct 24 to start hearing on a daily basis.

On Sept 24, the special court had decided to proceed on a daily basis from Oct 8.

Gen Musharraf is facing the high treason case since December 2013 when the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz government had filed a complaint to the special court over abrogation and subversion of the Constitution by proclamation of emergency in the country on Nov 3, 2007.

The prosecution had laid the entire evidence before the special court in Sept 2014.

However, because of a stay order issued by the Islamabad High Court the trial remained inconclusive.

Later, the former military dictator left Pakistan after the superior judiciary ordered removal of his name from the Exit Control List.

Gen Musharraf is an absconder in this case since March 2016.

Currently, Gen Musharraf lives in Dubai and has been unable to attend hearings in Pakistan as he is reportedly receiving medical treatment for a rare disease.

The Supreme Court had in April instructed the special court to conclude the trial of the former military dictator even if he does not appear before it.

Gen Musharraf’s previous lawyer, Barrister Salman Safdar, had earlier told the court that his client was ready to appear before the court and record his statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code but could not do so because of his serious ailment. He said the former president was too sick to record his statement even through a video link.

He had also submitted that the interior secretary recorded his statement before the special court in 2016, saying that Gen Musharraf was allowed to leave the country on “humanitarian grounds”. He said that the then government was convinced that the accused required medical treatment abroad and subsequently let him go.

However, being absconder the court did not allow Gen Musharraf’s representation through his lawyer but directed the law ministry to appoint a defence counsel.

On June 27, the ministry suggested the names of six lawyers to represent Gen Musharraf in the treason case at state expense. They were Syed Ali Zafar, Raja Amir Abbas, Shah Khawar, Ishfaq Naqvi, Tahir Malik and Riaz Hanif Rahi. The court was told that lawyers Ali Zafar and Amir Abbas had declined, another lawyer had demanded excessive fee, while the rest said they needed more time to go through the case.

Subsequently, Advocate Bashir was appointed as the defence counsel on state expenses under the directive of the special court.

Published in Dawn, October 9th, 2019