ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court summoned on Monday former president Pervez Musharraf to appear before it on Tuesday to face charges of high treason and barred him from leaving the country.
On Monday the apex court began hearing five identical petitions against the former military ruler seeking his trial under article 6 of the constitution for imposing the state of emergency in 2007.
It is the first time in the country’s history that the Supreme Court has summoned a former military ruler over allegations of misconduct.
A bench comprising Justice Jawwad S. Khawaja and Justice Khilji Arif Hussain directed the federation and all its functionaries to ensure that the respondent did not move out of the jurisdiction of Pakistan until “this order is varied/modified”.
The court said the “interior secretary shall also make sure that if the name of Mr Musharraf is not already on the exit control list (ECL), this shall be done forthwith and a compliance report of this order shall be submitted in court during the course of the day”.
The petitioners also sought trial of retired lieutenant generals Mehmood Ahmed and Muzaffar Usmani as well as retired major generals Aziz Ahmed, Shahid Aziz and Ghulam Mohammad for high treason because, accor-ding to them, they had abetted Gen Musharraf in subverting the constitution.
The court issued notices to Gen Musharraf and the federal government before adjourning the hearing to Tuesday.
Justice Khawaja remarked that the court would pass an appropriate order after hearing all stakeholders. “For us, this case is like any other case pending before this court.”
He said: “It is mandatory for us to complete all legal formalities and instead of deciding the case on the basis of sentiments and emotions, the court will thoroughly examine the matter in question in accordance with constitutional provisions and the law.”
When the petitioners pointed out that Gen Musharraf held the constitution in abeyance twice — in October 1999 and November 2007 — Justice Khilji Arif Hussain pointed out that article 6 was amended in 2010 under the 18th Amendment and the words “held in abeyance” were added to the article after 2007.
Petitioner Sheikh Ahsanuddin, a former president of the Lahore High Court Bar Association’s Rawalpindi division, informed the court that article 6 was amended after the Supreme Court observed in its judgment in the 1972 Asma Jilani case that a usurper might be punished at an appropriate time at a later stage if found guilty of subverting and abrogating the constitution.
He said Gen Ziaul Haq, instead of abrogating the constitution, held it in abeyance to avoid high treason charges and Gen Musharraf did the same in Oct 1999 and then again in Nov 2007.
A. K. Dogar, counsel for petitioner Maulvi Iqbal Haider, told the court that the Sindh High Court (SHC), in its judgment of Oct 14, 2010, observed that Gen Musharraf had abrogated the constitution, but advised the petitioner to approach the Supreme Court to seek directions for the federal government to invoke article 6 against him.
Hamid Khan, a senior lawyer, argued that the punishment for high treason was death sentence or life imprisonment. He requested the court to direct law enforcement agencies to take Gen Musharraf into custody and place his name on the ECL.
Hamid Khan pointed out that while granting protective bail to the former president the SHC had also barred him from leaving the country. Mr Khan said Gen Musharraf would not be able to go abroad through airports, but he might leave the country via different airstrips like Shamsi airbase or sea, he added.
He requested the bench to ask the government to confine the retired general within jurisdiction of the apex court.
Ikram Chaudhry, counsel for petitioner Abdul Hakeem Khan, read out a resolution moved by Senator Mian Raza Rabbani in the upper house of parliament on January 23 last year for trying Gen Musharraf under article 6.
He said the resolution, which was adopted unanimously by the Senate, had called for immediate arrest of Gen Musharraf upon his arrival in Pakistan because he was an accused and a proclaimed offender in cases of murder of Benazir Bhutto and Akbar Bugti, but the government gave him the protocol of a VIP.
Sources in the interior ministry told Dawn that the name of Gen Musharraf was already on the ECL after the SHC, while granting protective bail on March 29, had restrained him from leaving the country without permission.
According to the sources, the interior secretary will submit a report before the court on Tuesday.
The sources claimed that Gen Musharraf would not be able to go abroad through any exit route, including airports, seaports or roads. Under the ECL Ordinance of 1981, if Gen Musharraf tried to leave the country through, he would face legal consequences.
Lawyers: Musharraf won’t attend hearing
Gen Musharraf would not appear personally in the Supreme Court on Tuesday, his lawyers said late on Monday.
“I have directed my panel of eminent lawyers to forcefully represent me in the Supreme Court of Pakistan tomorrow... These cases do not frighten me and I will fight all the cases in the court of law!” Gen Musharraf’s Facebook account quoted him as saying.
His lawyer, Syed Afshan Adil, told AFP that there would be a “security issue”.
The Pakistani Taliban threatened to assassinate Gen Musharraf on the eve of his March 24 return to Pakistan.
“It has been decided that his lawyers will represent him. However when the court considers it necessary he will appear in person,” Mr Adil said.—AFP