ISLAMABAD: Giving another opportunity to former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for his defence and to the federal government to address loopholes, if any, in the prosecution, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday set aside the last week order of the special court that a final verdict in the high treason case would be announced on Nov 28.

However, the IHC full bench comprising Chief Justice Athar Minallah, Justice Aamer Farooq and Justice Mohsin Akhtar Kayani wanted the special court to decide the case expeditiously as it directed the government to notify a prosecution team by Dec 5.

The full bench gave these directives after hearing a petition filed by the interior ministry, which is a complainant in the high treason case against retired general Musharraf.

In its Nov 19 order, the three-judge special court, headed by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth had reserved a verdict in the high treason trial against the former military ruler to be announced on Nov 28.

IHC sets aside special court order, allows govt to notify prosecution team by Dec 5

The interior ministry in its petition filed before the IHC full bench claimed that the complaint against retired Gen Musharraf had not been filed through an authorised person nor the special court had been formed properly.

According to the petition of interior ministry, the prosecution team was removed after the loopholes in the case had been identified, yet they submitted written arguments before the court without ministry’s authorisation.

Additional Attorney General Sajid Ilyas Bhatti informed the court that the prosecution team was denotified. He said the government was about to notify new prosecutors, but the special court concluded the case without even engaging with the new legal team.

Mr Bhatti apparently was not prepared to argue the case and during the course of arguments conceded that the special court was constituted lawfully which was contrary to what the interior ministry had stated in its petition.

Also when the court summoned law secretary Khashishur Rehman for assistance, he confirmed that the appointment of the judges including the presiding officers was made with the approval of the federal cabinet and it was also notified in the gazette.

The counsel for the former president, Salman Safdar, argued before the IHC that the special court was going to announce verdict without giving the accused ‘proper’ opportunity of defence and without even entertaining the application seeking acquittal in the treason case.

The court directed the government to “notify the prosecutor or a team of the prosecution, as the case may be, on or before December 5, 2019” and disposed of the petition.

The IHC also asked the special court to “fix a date for affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing to the notified prosecutor or the prosecution team, as the case may be, as well as the counsel appointed for the accused under Section 11(2) of the Criminal Laws Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976”.

The bench also allowed the defence counsel to argue the case before the special court. However, it expected that the special court would conclude the proceedings expeditiously.

Published in Dawn, November 28th, 2019