History will be made on Monday (April 8) when the Supreme Court hears a petition asking for the former president Pervez Musharraf to be put on trial for high treason. The court’s decision on the petition will bring a saga, which began when Musharraf sacked the judges of the superior judiciary including Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry, full circle.
The petition, filed by the Rawalpindi chapter of the Lahore High Court Bar Association (LHCBA), requests the SC to direct the federal government to prosecute Musharraf under the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973.
“The federal government may be directed to take Pervez Musharraf in custody immediately awaiting his investigation and prosecution under the same high treason act,” the petition further states. It lists Musharraf and the federal government as respondents.
The case has been fixed before a three-judge bench of the apex court, led by Justice Chaudhry himself, for next week.
Taufiq Asif, president of LHCBA’s Rawalpindi chapter, said that he had asked the SC to try Musharraf for treason for imposing emergency rule in 2007, a move that ultimately paved the way for his fall from power.
“I have been informed by the SC that a three-member bench headed by Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry is going to hear my petition against General Pervez Musharraf after three days,” Asif said.
SC officials confirmed that the judges would hear the petition on Monday.
On October 12, 1999, Musharraf staged a military coup and overthrew the elected government of then prime minister Nawaz Sharif. He later had himself elected as the president of the country while still retaining his post of Chief of Army Staff. The general also imposed a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, and deposed many judges of the superior courts.
“The petitioner is leading a high court bar association which has played a key role in the lawyers’ movement during 2007 to 2009 which resulted in the restoration of judiciary and compelled a dictator and usurper (Respondent.1) to resign from the office of the president of Pakistan,” the petition reads.
A number of petitions seeking Musharraf’s trial under article 6 of the Constitution have been filed in various courts, mostly by lawyers. The Supreme Court Bar Association (SCBA) is also backing the petition against the former president, who is currently in Islamabad following his return to the country after four years of self exile.
Talking to The Express Tribune, SCBA President Asrarul Haq Mian said that the SC, in its July 31, 2009 judgment on a petition filed by the Sindh High Court Bar Association, held Musharraf responsible for violating the Constitution and observed that it was the federal government’s task to initiate the former dictator’s trial.
But according to former law minister Khalid Ranjha, it was not possible for the courts and political forces to initiate action against Musharraf for high treason since he was not alone in the move to abrogate the Constitution.
Last week, during the hearing of a case related to election reforms, senior lawyer AK Dogar told the SC that Musharraf wanted to contest polls despite his constitutional violations. In response, Justice Chaudhry observed that an objection could be raised from whichever constituency the former president files his nomination papers for and added that the Election Commission was fully empowered to assess candidates’ eligibility according to articles 62 and 63 of the Constitution.
Published in The Express Tribune, April 6th, 2013.
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