ISLAMABAD: A special court has ordered the former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to appear before it on May 2 while rejecting his plea to defer till May 13 hearing of the high treason trial, started in 2014 for his role in subverting the Constitution on November 3, 2007.
The three-judge special court which on Thursday heard the federal government’s plea against Musharraf, also gave the former president’ counsel a questionnaire that he is expected to answer under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedures (CrPC).
The bench, headed by Justice Tahira Safdar and comprising of Justice Nazr Akbar and Justice Shahid Karim, also dismissed his request for acquittal, noting that such requests should be formally submitted. The request will be reviewed on its number, it said.
Earlier, Musharraf’s counsel Salman Safdar requested the court to allow him reasonable time for defence of his client, who in 2016 left the country for ‘medical treatment’ but has never returned since.
He said Musharraf was extremely ill and could not appear before the court. “He also cannot get his statement recorded via Skype or video link. I as his counsel am also not in the capacity to respond to the questions on behalf of my client as my statement in this regard would not be valid,” he added.
The counsel said Musharraf was scheduled to have a medical checkup even on Thursday adding that the former president was suffering from a heart condition and undergoing chemotherapy in two hospitals.
“Musharraf had slipped in bathroom and damaged his backbone due to which he is not able to easily walk,” the counsel said, adding that he could not establish a direct contact with the former president and his wife, Sehba Musharraf, told him about his condition.
According to Sehba, Musharraf wants to return to the country on May 13, he said, asking the court to defer the hearing till then. Justice Tahira, however, noted that the holy month of Ramazan would start by that time and hence it would be difficult to hold the hearing.
Justice Nazar Ahmed noted if Musharraf could return on May 13, he could also come earlier. The court asked the defence counsel to ensure that Musharraf appears with answers to the questions present in the questionnaire.
The counsel maintained that the trial could not proceed in the absence of the suspect given the laws for special court and relevant sections of Pakistan Penal Code. The court noted that the question as to whether trial proceedings could be held in absence of a suspect must be tackled.
The counsel also maintained that the high treason case was filed upon orders of the then prime minister Nawaz Sharif and the cabinet had not given approval to the decision.
“The prime minister cannot exercise the powers of the cabinet as indicated by the Supreme Court and high courts. For this reason, this case cannot be heard at all. The court should admit the acquittal plea filed by Musharraf,” he added. Justice Tahira Safdar said the court would review the plea later on.
Musharraf’s counsel also told the court that he did not have complete record of the case. The court noted that full record was given to the counsels but if any document was missing, a formal request should be made for its provision. Later, the court adjourned hearing of the case till May2.
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