November 28, 2019
A special court in Islamabad, which was halted from announcing its judgement in the long-drawn high treason case against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf, on Thursday expressed its displeasure at the non-submission of a written response by the former military ruler’s government-appointed lawyer, Raza Bashir.
While reserving its verdict in the case earlier this month, the special court had ruled that Musharraf’s counsel could submit written arguments by November 26.
On Wednesday, the Islamabad High Court (IHC) had stopped the special court from issuing the verdict in the high treason case on a petition filed by the interior ministry.
During today’s proceedings by a three-member bench headed by Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth, Advocate Bashir appeared in the court and informed the bench that they had submitted an application seeking Musharraf’s acquittal.
A representative of the interior ministry was also in court. Justice Seth told the representative that the high court had granted the government time till December 5 to appoint a prosecution team.
“After December 5, we will not give you further time,” he said, adding that they would hear the case on a daily basis after that date.
The judge said that Musharraf could record his statements anytime prior to the next hearing, adding that they would not accept any application after the hearing.
“We are not bound to implement the high court’s decision,” said Justice Shahid Karim, adding: “We are only bound by the Supreme Court’s orders.”
“We will not comment on the high court’s decision,” added Justice Seth.
The proceedings were adjourned until December 5.
IHC halts special court from announcing verdict
The special court had on November 19 concluded the trial proceedings in the high treason case against Musharraf for declaring a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, and had ruled that a verdict would be announced on November 28 (today) on the basis of the available record.
However, the IHC on Wednesday accepted the interior ministry’s petition and barred the special court from announcing the verdict. A similar petition filed by Musharraf’s lawyer was disposed of with the court issuing directions on it.
“For reasons to be recorded later, we allow writ petition […] filed by the Ministry of Interior,” the court said in its short order, setting aside the special court’s Nov 19 decision to reserve its judgement in the case.
The IHC has directed the federal government to notify a new prosecutor or a team of prosecution in the treason case by December 5. In addition, the special court was ordered to fix a date “for affording a reasonable opportunity of hearing” to the notified prosecutor or prosecution team as well as the counsel appointed for Musharraf.
According to the short order, the special court is also “expected to take into consideration” the grounds raised in an application filed by Musharraf seeking his acquittal in the high treason case.
“The learned special court is expected to conclude the proceedings expeditiously having [regard] to the cardinal principles of fair trial,” the order read.
The IHC has allowed Musharraf’s counsel Barrister Salman Safdar to assist the counsel appointed for the former military ruler during the hearing, if he so wishes.
High treason case
The high treason trial of the former military dictator for clamping the state of emergency on Nov 3, 2007, started during the PML-N government, has been pending since 2013.
He was booked in the treason case in December 2013. Musharraf was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the prosecution had tabled the entire evidence before the special court in September the same year. However, due to litigation at appellate forums, the trial of the former military dictator lingered on and he left Pakistan in March 2016 with the nod of superior courts as well as the interior ministry.
Since then he has been an absconder in the case.