The federal interior ministry and former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf both submitted pleas in the Islamabad High Court on Monday, requesting it to stop the special court from announcing its reserved verdict in the high treason case against the former army chief.
The special court, constituted to try the former military ruler for high treason, was set to announce its verdict on Nov 28. The IHC will hear the case today, Tuesday.
In the petition filed through its secretary, the interior ministry has stated that the special court’s decision to reserve its verdict in the case is in violation of the Constitution because it was issued without giving the ministry the opportunity to notify a new prosecution team in the case and because the judgement is set to be passed without hearing the prosecution during the trial.
On October 24, the special court was informed that the government had sacked the entire prosecution team engaged by the previous PML-N government to prosecute the high treason case against Musharraf. The special court had later on Nov 19 reserved its verdict, observing that the prosecution team before being sacked had submitted detailed arguments which were sufficient to understand their point of view. The ministry has stated that if the special court proceeds to pass its judgement without hearing the prosecution, “the accused (Musharraf) will be handed an opportunity to escape punishment for purely technical legal faults”. It argues that the federal government has the mandate to change the prosecution team and cites a “defective application of procedure, lengthy delay and expense incurred at [the] trial” as reasons for denotifying the prosecution team in Musharraf’s case.
According to the petition, the initial prosecution team after being denotified on October 23, 2019, had no authority to file written arguments on behalf of the federal government, not to represent it at the hearing on Oct 24. Therefore, any verdict issued on the basis of these written arguments filed unlawfully “cannot be deemed to be a judgement [passed] after hearing the prosecution”, states.
The development comes hours after the Lahore High Court took up former president Musharraf’s petition challenging the verdict reserved by the special court in the high treason case against him.
Justice Syed Mazhar Ali Akbar Naqvi, who presided over the proceedings, asked Musharraf’s lawyer, Khwaja Ahmed Tariq Rahim, to present two-point statements 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 this petition when matters relating to Musharraf are pending in the country’s top court [Supreme Court of Pakistan]?” asked Justice Naqvi. “Also, how is the petition maintainable in LHC when the petitioner is a resident of Islamabad?” Meanwhile, Musharraf’s lawyer Salman Safdar stated in the plea that the former army chief should be treated as per the law, adding that Musharraf was not given the right to defend himself in the case. Musharraf’s plea mentioned that the decision is contradiction to Article 4 and Article 10A of the Constitution. The Pakistan Muslim League-N government had filed the treason case against Musharraf over the president’s imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007.