ISLAMABAD - Tuesday was a historic day as former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf became the first former army chief to appear in a court in a treason case.
Not just that, he complied when the judges asked him to stand up in the dock. And a report said, the ex-strongman even saluted the judges.
Musharraf is also the first former army chief in the country’s history facing high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution for imposing emergency on the 3rd of November 2007 and holding in abeyance the Constitution for over a month. If convicted, he faces life imprisonment or death penalty.
However, the special court did not indict him on his appearance in the court as it said it would first decide about its jurisdiction to hear the case. Musharraf’s lawyers demand his trial by a military court.
The former army chief was brought to the special court from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) where he has been admitted since January 2, 2014, in a 17-vehicle cavalcade, including a bulletproof car and an ambulance amid tight security. Over 1,200 security personnel were deployed along his route. Before Musharraf’s arrival, a bomb disposal squad carried out a thorough check inside the court and jammers were installed.
The 70-year-old former general, attired in white ‘shalwar’ and black ‘kameez’ and jacket, appeared agile. His legal team stood in his honour and applauded as he entered the courtroom.
Outside the National Library, where high treason trial is being conducted by the three-judge Court, a small number of Musharraf’s supporters were gathered carrying his photographs. They chanted slogans when he came out of the court and jumped into his black, tint-glassed Land Rover.
Musharraf avoided the media and did not respond to their questions, but said: “I will speak later.”
The court on the requests of the defence counsels did not frame charges. Ahmed Raza Kasuri contended that the court should not frame induct the former president before a decision on the jurisdiction of the court. He said: “If this Court comes to the conclusion that it does not have the jurisdiction, then all the matters and the orders passed by it would be defective in the eyes of law.”
Public Prosecutor Akram Sheikh opposed defence contention and demanded that in accordance with this Court’s December 24, 2013 order, charges be framed against the accused and later on he could be exempted from appearance.
He said the question of Court jurisdiction would come later, but the section 6 of Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976, under which the trial is going on, is a mandatory provision.
The section 6(2)(a) says; “As soon as accused appear or are brought before the Special Court, formal charges be read and explained to them.”
The prosecutor further said that Anwar Mansoor, Musharraf’s lawyer, received a copy of charge-sheets two months ago and he must have conveyed it to the accused.
The Court said: “We are conscious of the fact and are inclined to first decide the jurisdiction issue and in case we decide they have jurisdiction then the accused would be directed to re-appear for framing of the charges.”
An order in this regard would be announced on Friday (February 21), after that further direction for the appearance of Musharraf before Special Court would be passed. However, Musharraf’s guarantor, Lt-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, has been directed to be present on that date.
Anwar Mansoor and Akram Sheikh had already concluded their arguments on the jurisdiction issue two weeks ago. The court, on hearing the defence counsel that Musharraf should be tried by the military court, reserved judgment on it (which will be announced in its abovementioned order). Anwar Mansoor argued that former General should be tried under the Army Act 1952 because when he committed crime he was in army uniform.
During the 25 minutes attendance, the ex-COSA neither uttered a word nor was he asked to speak.
Musharraf was brought in tight security in the Court at 1:05pm and after the hearing had resumed. The Rangers and intelligence agencies personnel remained present all this time.
When the hearing started, Justice Faisal Arab asked the defence counsel Anwar Mansoor to ask his client to stand up. Musharraf stood up and said Aslam-o-Alaikum to judges.
As mentioned, the court would pass an order on jurisdiction on Friday, but Anwar Mansoor would continue his arguments on biasness today (Wednesday).
Monitoring adds: A media report said that when Musharraf was asked to stand up in the dock, he stood up and saluted the judges. His counsel then asked the judges to allow his client to sit as he wasn’t well. The request was granted.
Outside the court, Musharraf’s guarantor, Lt-Gen (retd) Rashid Qureshi, spoke to the media and said that the officers who served with Gen Musharraf have now attained senior posts. Asked if COAS Gen Raheel Sharif visited the ailing Musharraf in the hospital, he said that he had no idea about it, but he did see flowers sent by Gen Raheel, reported the BBC.