• Move to file reference against Justice Seth in SJC, challenge verdict in SC
• Furore over ruling’s wording: ‘...corpse be dragged… hanged for three days’
• Military spokesman says order, especially the words used in it, is against humanity, religion, culture and values
• Law minister terms judgement ‘unprecedented and despicable’
ISLAMABAD: Hours after a special court released its detailed judgement in the high treason case in which it ordered dragging and hanging of former military ruler retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s corpse, the government and military authorities on Thursday gave an angry response to the verdict and decided to file a reference against Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth in the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC), besides challenging the verdict in the Supreme Court.
Justice Seth headed the three-judge special court.
Both the government and the army expressed ‘anger’ over a specific paragraph 66 of the detailed judgement and termed it “unlawful”, “inhuman” and “unconstitutional”.
Para 66 of the verdict read: “We direct the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict [Pervez Musharraf] and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk [in front of the Parliament House], Islamabad, Pakistan, and be hanged for three days.”
The government decided to move the SJC and file an appeal against the verdict during a meeting of the ruling Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s (PTI) strategic committee, chaired by Prime Minister Imran Khan after his telephonic conversation with Chief of the Army Staff (COAS) Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa.
The government’s decision to go against the special court verdict and its author Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth was revealed by Law Minister Farogh Naseem, Special Assistant to the Prime Minister (SAPM) on Information Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan and SAPM on Accountability Mirza Shahzad Akbar at a joint press conference.
Earlier, military spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, while referring to certain parts of the verdict during a hurriedly called media briefing, vowed to thwart the “enemy design” and defend the institutional dignity. “Today’s verdict, especially the words used in it, is against humanity, religion, culture and our values,” he said, adding that the army’s response plan to the threat was also in place.
Without elaborating the institutional response to the sinister “design”, he said that conspiracies of the “anti-state elements” both “internal and external” would be foiled.
Law Minister Naseem said the government had a ground to file a reference against the PHC chief justice because there was a verdict of former chief justice of Pakistan Iftikhar Mohammad Chaudhry that “incompetence is a ground of misconduct”.
Terming the decision against the former president “unprecedented and despicable”, the law minister said: “This is an attempt to take Pakistan into dark ages.”
Responding to a question whether the special court’s verdict will stand invalid if the SJC gives its decision against the PHC chief justice, he skipped it and only said “no comments”. However, SAPM Awan said at the fag end of the press conference: “In that case the verdict will stand null and void.”
Mr Naseem said the federal government would plead before the SJC that the PHC chief justice was “mentally unfit” and “incompetent” and, therefore, he should be restrained from giving important decisions as head of the high court or judge of the Supreme Court.
Referring to a past judgement by Justice Naseem Hasan Shah of the Supreme Court in which the “universal declaration of human rights in Islam” had been referenced as well as Article 14 which speaks of the “fundamental right of the dignity of man” was invoked, the law minister said it was ruled that public hangings were in contravention to the Constitution and Islam.
Mr Naseem said there was no room for a judge to have authority to present such an observation in Article 6 of the Constitution, in the High Treason Act-1973 and in the Criminal Amendment Act of the special court-1976.
The controversial paragraph 66 was widely criticised by the lawyers’ community as well as members of civil society.
Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan said the verdict was “unconstitutional, unethical, inhuman, and was given by an individual whose sanity is questionable”.
In his presser, Maj Gen Ghafoor said: “We very well know how to uphold the dignity of the institution. … God willing we will protect both the country and the pride and prestige of the institution.”
He said the army chief in his conversation with PM Khan conveyed the sentiments of the army and “patriotic citizens, who are aware of the challenges being faced by the country” and deliberated on how to move ahead in the matter.
The military spokesman asserted that the army was fully alive to the enemy designs against Pakistan. “Being an important national security institution, we are clear about the efforts to weaken us internally and benefitting from that materialise the external threat,” he said.
He said the adversary’s design was to “provoke us to fight against each other” and in this way fulfilled its “dream of defeating Pakistan”. He emphasised the cohesiveness within the army, likening it to “a family”, and the “public support” as sources of strength for the military in dealing with national challenges. “If the country today needs the sacrifice, performance and the unity of the institution, we will not fail it by falling to the conspiracies of the enemy,” he maintained.
Talking about the detailed verdict, the military spokesman said it had vindicated army’s reservations expressed in its initial reaction on Dec 17 after the announcement of the short order, which were about Gen Musharraf not getting due process, being denied fundamental rights.
SAPM Shahzad Akbar said the verdict had bowed his and the entire nation’s head in shame and brought a bad name to the country. “We will ascertain that why and how this paragraph  was dropped into the judgement which was written by violating law and the Constitution,” he added.
He said the government had decided to challenge the decision against Gen Musharraf because legal and constitutional requirements had not been fulfilled in the judgement. “The case was decided in absentia without recording statements of Gen Musharraf and witnesses in the case,” he added.
Mr Akbar termed the verdict an “attack” of an institution on another institution at a time when there was a tension on the Pakistan-India border. “Custodians of law have a responsibility to forge harmony but in what kind of issue they have involved themselves for personal enmity,” he added.
He said the right of fair trial had not been given to the former president and the case was decided in haste. “Similarly, why requirement of seeking permission of the federal cabinet for filing petition against Mr Musharraf was ignored by the special court,” he added.
Firdous Ashiq Awan alleged some external powers were behind the conspiracy and some people in the country were being used as their tools. “But the government and the army will crush all such conspiracies,” she added.
Baqir Sajjad Syed also contributed to this report
Published in Dawn, December 20th, 2019