ISLAMABAD: Veteran lawyer Akram Sheikh stepped down on Monday as the head of the prosecution team tasked by the previous federal government to prosecute former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on charges of high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.
Sheikh tendered his resignation just as the special court is all set to resume hearing of the high treason case against Musharraf.
Copies of the resignation letter, addressed to Secretary Interior Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, have also been sent to the secretary to the president, secretary to the prime minister, secretary to the law and justice division and registrars of the Supreme Court and Special Court.
Confirming this development, Akram Sheikh told The Express Tribune: “It has always been my dream that civilian supremacy must prevail and everyone must be held accountable before the law, deterring the imposition of martial law.”
Sheikh, however, expressed hope that the new government would pursue the case to its logical end.
On December 4, 2013, the PML-N government issued a notification regarding the appointment of Akram Sheikh as the head of prosecution.
“I was appointed to prosecute General (retired) Pervez Musharraf for the offence of high treason before the special court, which I successfully concluded by presenting the prosecution evidence on September 18, 2014 and the case was fixed for examination of the accused under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC).
However, General (retired) Pervez Musharraf fled from Pakistan and is still at large,” Sheikh stated in his resignation letter.
Contending that since he was appointed by the previous government and a new government was set to take over in the near future, he deemed it appropriate to tender his resignation as the head of the prosecution team.
“The newly-elected government may choose to continue with the prosecution of the case and appoint a counsel of its own liking,” he stated.
It is learnt that Sheikh faced immense difficulties since the day he was appointed as the prosecutor. However, he continued to work during the entire tenure of the PML-N government.
A close aide of Sheikh appreciated Sheikh’s efforts, saying that the veteran lawyer and his law firm suffered a lot after he was engaged to prosecute this case.
It remains to be seen whether the PTI government-in-waiting will pursue the treason case or retain Akram Sheikh as the prosecutor.
Sources agreed that Sheikh, who is regarded as being close to the
PML-N, might personally withdraw from the case.
Legal experts believe that the treason case is a litmus test for the new government: It was one of the reasons that sparked the civilian-military tussle after the PML-N government initiated the case against the former army chief.
In November of 2007, the PTI chief had pledged to initiate proceedings against Musharraf over his unconstitutional acts, but PTI has since been silent in this regard.
Most of Musharraf’s close aides have also joined the PTI. Interestingly, a key member of Musharraf’s party, Dr Amjad withdrew his nomination papers in favour of Imran Khan in NA-53.
This case will also serve as a test of the superior judiciary’s resolve in concluding the trial.
On April 7 this year, the Chief Justice of Pakistan Mian Saqib Nisar proposed to form a new special bench, led by Justice Yawar Ali, but the PML-N government did not issue a formal notification during its tenure.
Later, the caretaker government issued a notification regarding the composition of the special tribunal, which now comprises Sindh High Court’s Justice Nazar Akbar and Balochistan High Court’s Justice Tahira Safdar.
Justice Yawar Ali is set to retire on October 22 this year. It remains to be seen if the trial concluded before his retirement.
Recently, the apex court summoned Musharraf, who has been living in Dubai since 2016, in a matter regarding his disqualification but he did not show up despite various guarantees offered by the apex court.
According to the schedule, the Lahore High Court’s (LHC) Chief Justice Yawar Ali, who is heading the three-judge special tribunal, would visit Islamabad for three days between July 31 and August 2.
According to sources, the purpose of his visit is to hear the high treason case on August 1.
The case was lodged against the former president soon after the PML-N government ascended to power in 2013.