Govt to save ex-ruler in court on appeal: AG

Published December 18, 2019
Pakistan's Attorney-General Anwar Mansoor Khan gives a press conference following a special court verdict against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, in Islamabad on December 17. — AFP
Pakistan's Attorney-General Anwar Mansoor Khan gives a press conference following a special court verdict against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf, in Islamabad on December 17. — AFP

ISLAMABAD: Terming the high treason trial against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf “unfair”, the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf government on Tuesday decided to defend the self-exiled, ailing ex-president during the hearing of an appeal to be filed on his behalf.

“I will defend the law in the case but not any individual,” said Attorney General Anwar Mansoor in the late-night joint press conference that he addressed along with Special Assistant to the Prime Minister on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan.

He said former president Musharraf had not been given the right of fair trial during the case tried in a special court and the judgement was announced in absentia without recording statement of the accused.

The attorney general said the verdict raised questions about “urgency in pronouncing the judgement when Mr Musharraf was in critical condition in ICU” in Dubai.

PM’s spokesman slams opposition for ‘maligning the army’ by commenting on decision; MQM-P regrets ruling

“Musharraf was not given a chance to record his statement under Article 342 (of the Constitution), to present his testimony and witnesses and his request to record his statement through video link or before a commission was turned down by the judge,” he added.

“There is no question that a person who had committed treason must be punished but in this case the right of fair trial guaranteed under the Constitution was not ensured. A trial should not just be fair but also seen to be fair,” he insisted.

The AG argued before the media that one of the major flaws in the case was that those who might have assisted Gen Musharraf in enforcing emergency in the country “had not been made party” in the case. He said if Gen Musharraf had been given a chance to record his statement and present his witnesses, he might have come up with “logical” reasons in support of emergency he had proclaimed in 2007.

Mr Mansoor further argued that the complaint against the ex-president had been filed by a former interior secretary, whereas under the 18th Amendment only a prime minister and members of his cabinet have powers to authorise any person for filing such petitions/complaints.

Asked if he committed a contempt of court by declaring the trial “unfair” during his media talk, the attorney general said: “Once the verdict is announced it becomes a public document and everyone can comment on it.” At the same time, he added, he had tried his best to get a copy of the judgement but he was asked by the court that it would be issued after 48 hours.

The PM’s aide on information, however, criticised the opposition for what she said “maligning the army” and “harming the interest of the state” by commenting on the decision.

In a TV talk show, spokesman for the PM Nadeem Afzal Chan said that institutions should not get themselves involved in any controversy on the judgement, as it was a verdict against an individual. He also urged the nation and institutions to move forward and not to get themselves involved in any controversy.

“Here [in the country] we have faced hanging of prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, assassination of ex-prime minister Benazir Bhutto and horrible tragedy of Army Public School, but [we] moved forward,” he added.

The PM spokesman was of the opinion that all stakeholders should exercise patience on the judgement. He said: “When we criticise the judiciary for not taking decisions against military generals and when we condemn lawyers for creating a fuss in Lahore then people can also comment on Musharraf.”

“Had the people stopped doing politics when ex-PM Bhutto was hanged,” he said and again appealed to the nation to move forward after the high treason case verdict.

Mr Chan, however, demanded that action be taken against the accomplices of Gen Musharraf who had assisted him or endorsed his act of enforcing emergency in the country in 2007.

The Muttahida Qaumi Movement-Pakistan termed the decision against Gen Musharraf “extremely regrettable”.

“What kind of justice is this that those looted national wealth are considered patriots but the man who put his life at stake for the sake of country has been declared a traitor,” wondered MQM-P convener Dr Khalid Maqbool Siddiqui in his reaction to the special court’s verdict.

He demanded that Gen Musharraf, who he said was very ill, be given an opportunity to defend his case.

Also, the Mustafa Kamal-led Pak Sarzameen Party rejected the special court verdict, saying “legal and constitutional obligations had not been met in the case against Gen Musharraf.”

Published in Dawn, December 18th, 2019

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