–Interior Ministry asks IHC to stop special court from announcing verdict as co-accused hadn’t been included in trial
–LHC asks Musharraf’s lawyer to assist court in deciding maintainability of ex-dictator’s plea seeking postponement of verdict
ISLAMABAD/LAHORE: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government on Monday sought postponement of the verdict in the high treason case against former military strongman General (r) Pervez Musharraf as the Lahore High Court (IHC) admitted the latter’s petition for the same cause.
Reportedly, the Interior Ministry submitted a petition in the Islamabad High Court (IHC) requesting it to stop the special court from announcing the reserved verdict in the high treason case on November 28.
The ministry contended that the co-accused were not included in the trial. The ministry also stated that the prosecution team in the case had been denotified on October 23 but it went ahead with the case without any authority.
The ministry further stated that the court had reserved its verdict on Nov 19, without giving the prosecution team a chance to notify. The government has the power to change the prosecution team, therefore the special court’s Nov 19, order should be declared void and it should be stopped from announcing the final verdict, the ministry added.
Meanwhile, the LHC on Monday took up the petition filed by Musharraf challenging the verdict reserved by a special court.
Justice Syed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi, who presided over the proceedings, asked Musharraf’s lawyer, Khawaja Ahmed Tariq Rahim, to present two-point statements on Tuesday and assist the court regarding the maintainability of the petition.
He was instructed to present his arguments on the following points: How can the LHC hear the petition if there are proceedings against Musharraf ongoing in the Supreme Court? Musharraf is a resident of Islamabad — how is the petition maintainable in Lahore?
Citing the example of cases against former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Rahim said that Nawaz’s cases were also ongoing in Islamabad but the LHC had found his petition maintainable. He added that it was a matter pertaining to the federal government, therefore, they could appeal to any high court.
According to Rahim, at the time the treason case against Musharraf was initiated, the approval of then-premier Nawaz had been taken. However, the approval of the cabinet was not sought.
Adjourning proceedings till Tuesday, Justice Naqvi asked the former president’s lawyer to assist them in understanding how the petition could be heard in the LHC.
Earlier on November 19, the special court concluded the trial proceedings in the high treason case against Musharraf for declaring a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, and ruled that a verdict would be announced on November 28 (Thursday) on the basis of the available record.
However, on November 23, Musharraf filed a writ petition in the LHC under Article 199 and nominated the federation as respondent through the secretaries of Interior Ministry and Law Ministry, the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) through its director-general and the special court through its registrar.
The former military ruler’s petition stated that he has not been able to return to Pakistan, despite a strong desire, due to his deteriorating health, multiple life-threatening ailments and his ageing mother. He requested the court to pass direction and declare the impugned order passed by the special court on November 19 as unconstitutional.
He also requested the court to uphold the fundamental rights of the petitioner guaranteed under the Constitution. “In exercising its discretionary relief, the court must look at the balance of convenience, which lies heavily in favour of the petitioner, as taking away his right to a pleader of his choice, as well as his right to an audience, as a direct consequence of his infirmity, will not only seriously prejudice his case but also set a precedent for all future cases where infirm accused are at a material disadvantage to healthy ones in defending their trails,” his petition read.
He requested the court that the respondents be directed to conduct a proper and unbiased investigation into the case, particularly with regards to the names of all alleged aiders and abettors for the proper appreciation of facts and evidence at trial. The former president contended that the application he had filed under section 265-K of CrPC may also be taken up by the special court and disposed of at the earliest.
Musharraf requested that operation of the offending portion of section 9 of the Criminal Law Amendments (special court) Act 1976, denying the accused an adjournment even on grounds of illness and thereby impacting this right to life, be suspended and declared unconstitutional and the trial be adjourned till the petitioner’s medical condition allows for his safe return to the country to face trial.
“The respondents are all performing functions in connection with the affairs of the federation and a petitioner is a person directly aggrieved by their actions in the present case, therefore, he has locus standi to bring the present judicial review proceedings before this court,” he concluded.
HIGH TREASON CASE:
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.
Earlier this year, head of the prosecution, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, tendered his resignation. In his resignation letter sent to the interior secretary, Sheikh expressed his inability to proceed with the case after the imminent change of government at the centre.
Sheikh was appointed as the head of the prosecution in the case in November 2013, by the then-PML-N led government.
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 continuous inability to appear.
Later, his passport and identity card were also cancelled on orders of the apex court.