Army dismayed as Musharraf gets death for high treason

Updated December 18, 2019

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KARACHI: Activists of the All Pakistan Muslim League hold a protest in favour of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf outside the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.—Shakil Adil / White Star
KARACHI: Activists of the All Pakistan Muslim League hold a protest in favour of retired Gen Pervez Musharraf outside the Karachi Press Club on Tuesday.—Shakil Adil / White Star

• ISPR expresses ‘pain and anguish’, says ex-COAS is no traitor
• Counsel for former president says court decision is unconstitutional
• Detailed order expected in 48 hours
• Dissenting note by one judge recommends life term

ISLAMABAD: As a special court awarded death sentence to former military dictator Pervez Musharraf in absentia on Tuesday for suspending the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007, the counsel for the convict and the armed forces media wing in separate statements strongly criticised the decision that they said was taken ‘in haste’.

The court, comprising judges of three high courts, awarded the sentence with a dissenting note from one judge who said that instead of capital punishment, the former military ruler should be awarded life imprisonment for imposing emergency and forcibly confining over 60 judges to their residences 12 years ago.

The special court, comprising Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court, will announce the detailed verdict in the high treason case within 48 hours of the pronouncement of the short order.

In a sharp and quick reaction to the ruling, the armed forces media wing said: “The decision given by special court about General Pervez Musharraf, retired, has been received with lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan armed forces. An ex-army chief, chairman joint chief of staff committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor.”

The statement issued by the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) said: “The due legal process seems to have been ignored including constitution of the special court, denial of fundamental right of self-defence, undertaking individual-specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste.”

The ISPR said the armed forces expected that justice would be dispensed in line with the Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.

While addressing a press conference, Barrister Salman Safdar, the counsel for retired Gen Musharraf, who has been in Dubai since 2016, said the court decision was “unconstitutional”.

The lawyer termed this an irony of fate that the trial of the 77-year-old ex-president was concluded “in haste” and “without giving him right of audience” and it was in “violation of the right to fair trial”.

The counsel told the media that Gen Musharraf could file an appeal against the decision within 30 days after receipt of the detailed judgement.

Ramsha Jahangir
Ramsha Jahangir

Asked if the ex-military ruler, before filing an appeal, would surrender before the court, Barrister Safdar said the verdict was announced in the absence of Gen Musharraf, who was suffering from multiple diseases and was not in position to surrender due to his fragile health.

The All-Pakistan Muslim League (APML), the political party of Gen Musharraf, also criticised the verdict. However, the party said instead of street protests, it had decided to challenge the verdict at an appropriate forum.

Political adviser to Gen Musharraf, Chaudhry Sarfraz Anjum Kahlon, said: “The verdict delivered by the special court is fundamentally flawed, devoid of legal merit. The legal team is reviewing all available options to overturn the judgment.”

The special court was scheduled to announce a verdict in the high treason case on Nov 28. However, a three-member bench of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on identical petitions of the interior ministry and the counsel for Gen Musharraf on Nov 27 restrained the special court from announcing the verdict. The IHC also asked the federal government to notify the prosecutors and suggested the special court to hear the arguments of Barrister Safdar.

On Dec 5, the court expressed displeasure when the prosecution despite having clear directions of the court was not ready for the final arguments. The special court then had to put off the case for Dec 17.

On Tuesday, when the special court resumed proceedings, the prosecution filed three applications for amending the charge-sheet, appointment of commission for recording the statement of Gen Musharraf and the constitution of a medical board to evaluate his health condition.

The prosecution wanted that the charge-sheet be amended to also include former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and former law minister Zahid Hamid as co-accused in the high treason case.

The second application urged the court to constitute a commission to record statement of Gen Musharraf under Section 342 of the criminal procedure code, which was a pre-requisite in the criminal proceedings. The third application requested the court to constitute a medical board to evaluate the health of Gen Musharraf in order to ascertain the factual position as to whether ex-military ruler had not been absconding but was unable to attend the trial proceedings.

The court returned the applications observing that the Supreme Court had already decided these issues, which could not be entertained at this stage.

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019