The superior judiciary has thrown the ball in the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) -led government’s court by seeking from it a reply on former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf’s acquittal plea in a high treason case.
The three-judge special court, led by Justice Tahira Safdar and comprising Justice Nazar Akbar and Justice Shahid Karim, on Thursday also accepted Musharraf’s application to postpone hearing till after Ramazan for recording his statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC). The hearing of the case has been adjourned till June 12.
The former army chief, who took power in 1999, is facing a treason trial under Article 6 of the Constitution as well as Section 2 of the High Treason Act on a complaint moved by the federal government.
The trial court, in line with the Supreme Court’s (SC) directive, was scheduled to record Musharraf’s statement to complete the trial but he could not appear before the court due to medical reasons.
When the prosecution’s counsel referred to the SC order regarding proceedings in the matter, a member of the bench said, “We are not guided by the (SC) order as we are an independent court.”
Legal experts believe that Musharraf’s application regarding his acquittal holds great significance. They say that now it will pose a serious test to the PTI-led government to take a side either for or against the imposition of emergency rule on November 3, 2007, emergency and the Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO).
“On one hand, they might make the ‘security operators’ uncomfortable. On the other hand, they may choose to obstruct justice which may displease of top judges who were the victims of that PCO,” they opined.
Apart from the position, according to one senior lawyer, it needs to be reviewed whether entertaining of such an application was warranted by law in absence of the accused. Furthermore, they added that there was a need to address the controversy as to whether the approval of the cabinet was indeed constitutionally required in this case.
The PTI chief, now Prime Minister Imran Khan, had vowed in November 2007 that his party would initiate proceedings against Musharraf over his unconstitutional acts. However, the PTI has since adopted a cautious approach, opting for silence over the issue in the recent past. It has also inducted major figures of the Musharraf regime, including his close aides, into the PTI.
The current law minister as well as the country’s attorney general have worked as Musharraf’s counsel in the past. A large of number of members of the incumbent cabinet members also performed their duties as ministers during Musharraf’s rule.
The acquittal application, moved through his counsel Salman Safdar, states that for the complaint to be competently filed, it had to be signed and moved by the federal cabinet, which wasn’t the case.
The application says that the case been filed in an unlawful manner as the special court was not vested with the jurisdiction to take cognizance of the complaint. In the absence of jurisdiction, the entire superstructure upon which the case against the applicant rests breaks down. It is also stated that eight prosecution witnesses have recorded their evidence against Musharraf but they have failed to adduce any incriminating material.
The application states that Musharraf is alleged to have committed high treason, the highest crime in any country, and it was the duty of the prosecution to prove its case to the hilt. A bare perusal of the evidence produced by the prosecution witnesses shows that the prosecution has failed to do so, it added.