ISLAMABAD - A newly constituted special court will take up the high treason case against former military ruler Pervez Musharraf on August 20.
The three-member special court bench will be headed by Lahore High Court (LHC) Chief Justice Yawar Ali. Other members of the bench are Balochistan High Court (BHC) judge Tahira Safdar and Sindh High Court (SHC) judge Akbar.
After Peshawar High Court former chief justice Yahya Afridi recused himself from the special bench on March 29, Chief Justice Mian Saqib Nisar had reconstituted the three-judge bench of the special court making Justice Yawar Ali as its head. On July 30, prosecution head Mohammad Akram Sheikh also tendered his resignation expressing his inability to proceed with the case after the change of government. Sheikh was appointed as the prosecutor in 2013 by the former Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government.
Musharraf, against whom the high treason case is pending for adjudication for abrogating the Constitution, has been living abroad for the last many years on the pretext of medical treatment.
On June 7, the top court, while hearing his appeal against the judgment of the Peshawar High Court (PHC), had linked the decision regarding the qualification of Musharraf for contesting elections with his appearance before the court.
A three-judge bench headed by Justice Nisar had also assured the former military ruler that he will not be arrested till his appearance before the court. However, Musharraf decided not to return to Pakistan. The special court indicted Musharraf in the high treason in March 2014. The special court had also declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered confiscation of his properties which could not be attached due to the litigation in courts. The previous PML-N government was keen to proceed against Musharraf in the high treason case and on April 28, the federal government requested the special court to conclude and pronounce the judgment at the earliest.
The federal government had even requested the special court to conclude the trial in the absence of Musharraf. “Respectfully, the interest of justice can never be aligned with a delay in the trial, rather the interest of justice is served only by the conclusion of the case,” an application moved by the then prosecutor had stated.
“The instant proceedings (treason case) are covered by the provision of special law, which lays down the entire manner of regulating proceedings of those who are present and of those who choose to stay away from the court. The law also deals with persons having poor health and declares it not to be a valid ground for adjournment of the case. The law also mandates the special court to pass a judgment notwithstanding the presence or otherwise of the accused,” it had said.
The application had contended that Musharraf had availed the full opportunity of cross-examining all the prosecution witnesses and to his heart's content despite the fact he has been grossly abusing the process of the special court by displaying a contumacious conduct.
“It is most unfortunate that the case primarily was for the imposition of martial law, abrogating the Constitution detaining over 100 judges of the superior courts without any lawful authority, resulting in reconstituting the entire superior judiciary and then conferring the powers for restoring the Constitution on himself. In the peculiar background, facts and circumstances, the accused (Musharraf) has tried to embarrass the country and has posed himself to be an individual more powerful than any other constitutional institution,” the application had stated.
The application had also cited a judgment of the Supreme Court in the Abdul Hameed Dogar case and stated that the top court had also directed to proceed with the trial with all convenient dispatch and without any unnecessary delay.
It is believed that the high treason case against Musharraf is one of the major challenges the prime minister-in-waiting Imran Khan will face soon after assuming the office as the initiation of the case had escalated tension between the military establishment and the previous PM-N government.
SYED SABEEHUL HUSSNAIN