ISLAMABAD: Retired Gen Pervez Musharraf who returned to the country last month with a slogan to “save Pakistan” is now struggling to save himself and stay relevant in the coming polls after rejection of his nomination papers in three out of four constituencies.
The rejection of the former military ruler’s nomination papers by the returning officers for the National Assembly constituencies in Islamabad (NA 48) and Karachi (NA 250) came on Sunday, a day before the Supreme Court is set to take up five petitions seeking his prosecution for high treason and for stopping him from participating in the polls.
A bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain will hear the petitions filed by representatives of various bar associations and some other lawyers, asking the court to convict the former dictator for abrogating the constitution and to stop him from taking part in the polls.
Earlier, the nomination papers of Gen Musharraf, who had formed his own party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), had been rejected by the returning officer (RO) in Kasur (NA 139).
Although the RO for NA 32 in Chitral accepted Gen Musharraf’s papers on the ground that the ex-president had not been convicted in any case, his plan to contest the polls could be jeopardised because the lawyers have announced that they will challenge the decision in high court.
The ROs in Karachi, Islamabad and Kasur rejected Gen Musharraf’s papers on the basis of articles 62 and 63 of the constitution for his act of imposing emergency in the country in November 2007 in violation of the constitution and for keeping judges of the superior judiciary under unlawful detention. The ex-military ruler was also accused of not disclosing his source of income in his nomination papers whereas he has declared assets worth more than Rs760 million.
Besides lawyers’ bodies, Gen Musharraf’s papers had also been challenged by the candidates of various parties, including the PML-N, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and Jamaat-i-Islami.
The former army chief, who had returned to Pakistan on March 24, ending his four-year self-exile, is living in his heavily-guarded fortress-like farmhouse in Islamabad’s Chak Shahzad locality. Granting pre-arrest bail to the APML chief in the murder cases of Baloch leader Nawab Akbar Bugti and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, the Sindh High Court had already barred him from travelling abroad.
Gen Musharraf, who had announced that he was ready to defend charges against him in courts, is expected to convene a meeting of his legal team to devise the strategy to face the legal challenges he has been facing since his return to the country.
When contacted, an APML leader and a member of Gen Musharraf’s legal team, Ahmed Raza Kasuri, said so far the party had not decided about filing appeals against rejection of the papers before the election tribunals. “We will discuss this in a meeting to be called tomorrow or a day after,” he said, adding that the decision would be made in the light of the attitude being shown by the judiciary.
Mr Kasuri, who is also the covering candidate for Gen Musharraf for the NA seat in Islamabad, alleged that the rejection of the papers had put a question mark on the fairness of the elections. He said the ROs’ decisions had sent a “negative message” abroad as Gen Musharraf was known internationally.
Mr Kasuri said it was heartening that the RO in Chitral had accepted Mr Musharraf’s papers.
When asked if there was any possibility that Gen Musharraf might not contest the polls from Chitral in protest against rejection of his papers for other seats, he said: “That is a secure seat for him and I don’t think he has any such plan.”
When asked whether Gen Musharraf would appear before the Supreme Court to face petitions about treason charges, Mr Kasuri claimed that so far he had not received any notice from the court.
According to the supplementary cause list issued by the SC for Monday, the bench 3 will hear the petitions filed by the Lahore High Court Bar Association, chairman Barrister Amjad Malik of the Association of Pakistani Lawyers in the UK, Moulvi Iqbal Haider, Sheikh Ahsanuddin and Abdul Hakim Khan, former chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council.
The returning officer of NA 32, Chitral, accepted the nomination papers of Gen Musharraf, dismissing seven identical petitions seeking his disqualification.
In his detailed order, the returning officer, Additional District and Sessions Judge Mohammad Jamal Khan, said no pending case had been decided against the nominee.
The returning officer also rejected a number of other objections raised against Gen Musharraf, including dissimilarities in his signatures in the nomination form and the authority letter issued in the name of Shahzada Khalid Pervez.
The parties opposing the acceptance of the nomination papers decided to challenge the decision in the Election Tribunal in Peshawar.
In Karachi, Returning Officer Syed Ikramur Rehman turned down the candidature of the former military ruler for NA 250 after examining his papers and hearing the objectors and the proposer and seconder of the candidate.
He said in his order that it was a matter of record that the candidate being chief of army staff and president of Pakistan had held the constitution in suspension on Nov 3, 2007, removed and detained a majority of the judges of the superior judiciary and publicly insulted Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.
These acts of Gen Musharraf were declared mala fide, unconstitutional and without jurisdiction by the Supreme Court in 2009, he said.
Heavy security had been deployed in and around the Karachi city courts in view of expected visit of Gen Musharraf but he did not turn up. His seconder and proposer, along with a lawyer, appeared before the returning officer and contended that the candidate had never been convicted by any court and only allegations had been leveled against him.
Zahiruddin in Chitral and Ishaq Tanoli in Karachi contributed to the report