–Legal experts offer differing opinions on merits of verdict
–Opp hails court’s decision, govt yet to offer clear perspective
ISLAMABAD: The special court’s verdict in the high treason case against former military ruler General (r) Pervez Musharraf has triggered a fissure within members of the legal and political fraternity.
The court sentenced the former president to death under Article 6 of the Constitution for subverting the Constitution by imposing a state of emergency.
The verdict drew mixed reactions. While all major opposition parties welcomed the court’s verdict, the government ministers adopted a different approach, triggering fears of conflict between the state institutions.
The former president has been in self-imposed exile ever since a travel ban on him was lifted in 2016 and he was allowed to seek medical treatment abroad.
His party, the All Pakistan Muslim League (APML), termed the verdict “biased and one without legal requirements fulfilled”.
APML’s Malik Mubashir said that the former president had agreed to record his statement in Dubai and the party will now consult lawyers for challenging the verdict in the superior court.
Speaking to Pakistan Today, Khalid Ranjha, a senior lawyer, said that the former president was not given a fair chance in the case. He said that the federal government submitted an application, demanding that all abettors should be included in the case because the court was legally bound to do so. He also said that the court should have accepted the federal government’s application and should have provided the former military ruler an opportunity to explain himself.
Ranjha said that Tuesday’s verdict was unprecedented as it was given without hearing out the accused. “There are numerous cases of heinous crimes in which there are abettors as well but the verdict is not announced in absentia,” he added.
Responding to a question about the repeated summons for Musharraf, he said that there is no law that allows a court to give decision against absconders without hearing them.
The senior lawyer also said that there is a possibility that the verdict will be challenged in the Supreme Court (SC). “Musharraf’s counsel had sought 10 days to bring him, even on a stretcher, but the decision was still announced. This is beyond comprehension,” he added.
Another senior member of the legal fraternity, Advocate Abdur Rahim Wazir expressed optimism that the judgement will increase the public’s faith in democratic institutions, particularly the judiciary.
He said that the former military ruler was given many opportunities to appear before the court and record his statement under Section 342 of the CrPC but his counsel was using delaying tactics to prolong the trial unnecessarily, therefore, the court had to announce the verdict on the basis of available record.
“If he challenges the verdict in the superior court on the basis of judgement in absentia, the court might not consider it because of the ample chances he was given,” he added.
Legal expert Irfan Qadir, however, said that the decision would have wide-ranging repercussions. “This is a wrong decision and will divide the country,” he said.
“This verdict will give rise to conflict. When I was the attorney general, I had told a court that the case against Musharraf was not legally sound since the judges hearing it were restored to their positions illegally,” he added.
Federal Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry questioned the need for a decision that “divides the nation and state institutions”, saying that the nation needs to be united.
Special Assistant to Prime Minister on Information and Broadcasting Dr Firdous Ashiq Awan said that the government’s legal team will view the detailed verdict and analyse its legal and political aspects before presenting its viewpoint. “The prime minister is returning tomorrow and he will see the verdict’s legal framework,” she added.
Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) Chairman Bilawal Bhutto-Zardari shared a picture of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, on Twitter, along with the caption: “Democracy is the best revenge”.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) senior leader Ahsan Iqbal said that the verdict against Musharraf would end the tradition of violating the Constitution.