Bizarre verdict in Musharraf case

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Mohammad Jamil
DETAILED verdict has been released in Musharraf treason trial case, and it is being debated in electronic media whereby legal experts are giving their opinion. However, majority of them has criticized para 66 of the verdict in which the Special Court directed law enforcers to apprehend Musharraf, currently receiving medical treatment in Dubai, to ensure the death sentence is carried out. It stated that if found dead beforehand, “his corpse (should) be dragged to D-Chowk, Islamabad and be hanged for three days”, the verdict said. The language used is beyond the scope of the Constitution; hence unlawful, illegal and immoral. This shows vindictiveness, and manifests not judicial but street mind. The questions are being raised if verdict against Pervez Musharraf can be given in absentia why verdicts are not being given against Ishaq Dar, Hussain Nawaz and Hassan Nawaz and other absconders.
There is a general perception that concessions are being given by the courts to Nawaz Sharif and Asif Ali Zardar on the basis of health condition, why Pervez Sharif has been singled out who is almost on the death bed. Anyhow, the government has decided to file reference against Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth in Supreme Judicial Council, as the language used in the detailed verdict could lead to anarchy and instability in the country and clash between the institutions. The verdict was 2 to 1, and in his lengthy dissenting note Justice Nazar Akbar stated that the prosecution had failed to prove its case. Legal experts argue that former prime minister Nawaz Sharif had not sought approval of the cabinet, which is violation of High Treason Act and Special Law CLA 1976. Secondly, aiders and abettors were excluded from prosecution conveniently ignoring clause 2 of Article 6 of the Constitution.
Furthermore, instead of following CrPC 512 to keep the case pending till arrest or appearance of Pervez Musharraf, the court proceeded with the trial and gave the verdict. It is being argued that statement 342 of the accused is mandatory, which was bypassed by the court. Pervez Musharraf was denied the right to be represented by defence council of his choice. As stated by Pervez Musharraf in a video message from the hospital bed in Dubai, his application to form Commission to take his statement and to hear defence evidence was rejected. The court had stated that Pervez Musharraf was given enough time more than it was due; but this is not the whole truth, as many a time composition of benches were changed and four judges were changed since the trial started, which was one of the causes of the delay.
During last two weeks, two judgments – one from the Supreme Court which ordered to give extension to army chief Qamar Javed Bajwa for only six months, and the other one from special court awarding death sentence to former army chief Pervez Musharraf have given rise to controversy and an impression that there is clash between the institutions. Attorney-General of Pakistan Anwar Mansoor Khan on Tuesday said the high treason case against former President retired General Pervez Musharraf had been void from the beginning and questioned what the rush was in pronouncing the judgment — the death penalty — which was given in absentia. Attorney General in a press conference said Musharraf was not given a chance to record his statement under Section 342 of the Constitution or produce his witnesses, adding that the courts had operated outside the scope of the law.
Expanding on what constitutes a fair trial AG Anwar Mansoor Khan said: “The court was requested to allow the video statement of the accused to be recorded. The court said you must bring him to Pakistan or else we will not record a statement”. The Attorney General said hearings had been held via video link and many people had recorded their statements from abroad in various cases in the past. A request for a Commission to be formed to go abroad to take his statement was also rejected by the court, he added. Meanwhile, DG ISPR Major General Asif Ghafoor, in a statement issued following the verdict in the high treason case against General retired Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday, said the decision given by special court has been received with a lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan Armed Forces.
He stated: “An ex-Army Chief, Chairman Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defense of the country can surely never be a traitor. The due legal process seems to have been ignored including constitution of special court, denial of fundamental right of self defence, undertaking individual specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste”. It has to be mentioned that Honorable Chief Justice of Pakistan Asif Saeed Khosa has impeccable record of giving landmark verdicts throughout his career. Unfortunately, erroneous impression has been formed in certain sections of society. The reason is that during his address in a forum, he raised his hands and hinted that another verdict is coming soon against powerful person. In social media, many said that CJ was instrumental in influencing the verdict by Special Court, which CJ has vehemently denied.
—The writer is a senior journalist based in Lahore.