–CJP says ex-dictator should either come to court in next hearing, or record his statement via video link, or allow his lawyer to answer questions in his stead
ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court (SC) on Monday said that it would intervene if the special court hearing the high treason case fails to make a decision on how to record former dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf’s statement.
A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, was hearing a petition filed by Taufeeq Asif, the ex-president of Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench’s bar association, which pointed out that the proceedings of the treason case — being heard by a special court since 2014 — had come to a halt since Musharraf had not returned to the country since 2016.
The former president has been indicted in a high treason case for suspending the constitution on Nov 3, 2007. He left for Dubai in 2016 to “seek medical treatment” and hasn’t returned since. Last week, Musharraf was admitted to a hospital in Dubai after suffering a reaction from a rare disease for which he is already under treatment.
In Monday’s hearing, the court first provided Musharraf three options to choose from in order for the trial of the high treason case to move forward.
Musharraf should either come to court in the next hearing [March 28] or record his statement via video link, or allow his lawyer to answer questions in his stead, the three-member bench hearing the case said.
“If someone is avoiding court proceedings on purpose, is the court completely helpless in the matter and can do nothing about it?” asked Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa, who was heading the bench.
Musharraf’s lawyer, however, rejected all the options and said that the defendant was too ill to answer questions via video link or in person.
The prosecution lawyer pointed out that the court also has the option of sending a commission to question the former president.
Hearing this, Justice Khosa said: “He [Musharraf] will reach the hospital before the commission gets to him. His doctors are not even going to let the commission meet him.”
During the hearing, the court was informed that the government had previously tried to bring Musharraf back to the country through extradition and Interpol. “We were unable to succeed on both occasions,” said the deputy attorney general.
“I am not surprised. Foreign governments do not usually give a person up if there is a chance that they may be awarded the death penalty in the case,” Justice Khosa said.
The court said the special court handling the treason case would decide on how the statement should be recorded.
“If that court cannot decide upon this in the next hearing on March 28, the Supreme Court will make the decision,” the chief justice said.
The court adjourned the hearing until April 1.
Earlier this month, the top court had sought a report from the special court regarding the delay in the high treason case and a reply from the government regarding measures taken for his return to the country.
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf over the president’s imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007.
The former army chief was indicted in the case in March 2014 after he appeared before the court and rejected all charges.
On March 18, 2016, the former president left Pakistan for Dubai for medical treatment after his name was removed from the Exit Control List on the orders of the Supreme Court.
A few months later, the special court had declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his no-show.
Later, on orders of the Supreme Court, Musharraf’s passport and identity card were also cancelled.