ISLAMABAD: After a costly exercise lasting a little over a year, the federal government is now considering shelving its treason trial against former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf.
Perhaps it is just too difficult to exercise Article 6 of the Constitution. At least that much has been proven during the year 2014.
Sources privy to the development revealed that the federal government wants the issue to linger on till the special court’s functioning becomes irrelevant. Already, the prosecution team has refused to prosecute abettors in this case, citing it as “unending process of trial”. The federal government also backed the Islamabad High Court’s (IHC) decision to suspend the special court’s proceedings for a few weeks.
“This is part of a new strategy in the changing circumstances after the Peshawar incident,” commented an interior ministry official, adding that “it is also part of overall scheme of the federal government to improve the relations with the military establishment.”
During a four-month long campaign of sit-ins staged by Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) and Pakistan Awami Tehreek (PAT), the treason trial proceedings against Musharraf were delayed for a few weeks.
Following the November 21 judgment of a three-judge special court regarding joint trial, the case currently stands at the same position from where it commenced on December 24, 2013. The legal wizards believe that a fresh process is required for joint trial, which means Musharraf would also be charge sheeted again.
The three-bench special court comprising Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Saeed had conducted 80 hearings to dispose of some 26 petitions.
The IHC barred the special court’s proceedings with the consent of the federal government till February 3 that means the federal government is no more interested in defending the actions of its own created court against such interventions.
“Had it been based on purely legal basis, it could not have faced these complications at the end of the year,” conceded Advocate Faisal Chaudhry, a member of Musharraf’s defence team.
The special court’s November 21 judgment attained finality after the federal government did not challenge the same. However, former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, ex-law minister Zahid Hamid and former chief justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, challenged the special court’s decision individually in the IHC.
Justice Athar Minallah led single-judge bench with the consent of all the parties in the case including the federal government’s attorney stayed the proceedings to the special court till further order. The high court would decide first whether or not it has powers to intervene in this matter.
As per budget document, the federal government has spent more than Rs57 million over the trial proceedings so far. According to the breakup, appropriations, expenditures incurred during the high treason trial, payment of fees and contingency and other expenses have cost the national exchequer Rs49.5 million. This amount has been spent by the Interior Division.
Additionally, the cost of renovating the National Library building, where the special court is trying Musharraf, comes in at around Rs7.7 million.
It is widely believed that treason trial idea was result of a personnel vendetta of premier Sharif against Musharraf, who ousted him from power in 1999 through a military coup and briefly put him behind bars in Attock Fort first and then forced him for exile.
Before initiating this trial, the government has formed a three-member joint investigation team of Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) for investigation. The Joint Investigation Team (JIT) probed many suspected abettors and collaborators to find their direct or indirect role in the imposition of November 3, 2007 emergency rule by Musharraf. The federal government has exclusively fixed Musharraf in this case and filed a complaint against him.
A member of the JIT in an interview with The Express Tribune confessed that the federal government did not allow them transparent investigation against suspected persons. The government conveyed us our prime target is Gen Musharraf and we don’t want to put any other person on trial, the JIT member alleged. However, the interior ministry refuted this stance.
During the year, the special court rendered a majority of judgments in favour of the prosecution team.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 3rd, 2014.