ISLAMABAD - A special court on Thursday decided to announce its verdict in high treason case against former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf on December 17 after hearing the arguments of the government’s new prosecution team in this matter.

A three-member special court headed by Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth and comprising Justice Nazar Akbar and Justice Shahid Kareem conducted hearing of federal government’s complaint against former COAS Pervez Musharraf of high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution.

In its short order, the court said that despite clear direction to the defence counsel (Raza Bashir) for filing of written arguments prior to today’s hearing (December 2019) in rebuttal to the written arguments already submitted by the previous prosecutors, he failed to submit the same.

“Therefore, he is once again directed to argue the case on the next date of hearing immediately after the conclusion of the arguments of newly appointed prosecution team,” added the court order.

It was November 19 when the court had reserved its judgment that had to be announced on November 28, but the Islamabad High Court (IHC) on November 27 stopped the special court from announcing its reserved judgment on the petition of Ministry of Interior. “For reasons to be recorded later, we allow writ petition [...] filed by the Ministry of Interior,” said the IHC short order.

Counsel seeks time to read 3,000-page case record

The government appointed advocates Ali Zia Bajwa and Munir Bhatti, as prosecutors in the case. Ali Zia informed the court that after receiving the notification of his appointment at 4pm on Wednesday (December 4), he had received a 3,000-page record. He sought some time to read the record of the case, adding that he would not depend on the arguments of the previous prosecution team.

Justice Nazar Akbar asked Ali Zia to apprise the court when he would present his arguments, adding that he would not be given more than a week’s time. He, however, requested that sufficient time be given as he has to read 3,000 pages.

Justice Waqar asked the prosecution team to set aside other cases and just focus on this case. Justice Akbar stated that four days were enough to prepare the case.

The Seth said that they (judges) come from various parts of the country for this case. “This is a special case and this is a special court,” he added.

The prosecutor said that there was “a lot of pressure” on them, in response to which Justice Akbar said, “What pressure could there be on lawyers and the court? The lawyers’ job is to assist the court.” Justice Seth added that they would write that the prosecution should give their statements by December 17.

Justice Waqar while deferring the case until December 17 said that they would hear arguments in the next proceeding and announce the verdict.

The high treason case under Article 6 of the Constitution was initiated against former army chief for imposing emergency and Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) on November 3, 2007. He was booked in the treason case in December 2013. Musharraf was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the prosecution had produced entire evidence before the Special Court in September 2014. However, due to litigation at appellate forums, the trial of the former military dictator lingered on and he left Pakistan in March 2016.