LAHORE  - The Supreme Court Wednesday rebuked former military dictator Pervez Musharraf for continuously absconding court hearings and ordered him to return Pakistan by today.

The former general-president was warned that he could be allowed to contest the general elections only if he appears in court by Thursday afternoon.

A three-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan Saqib Nisar passed the order while hearing Musharraf’s appeal against his disqualification by Peshawar High Court in 2013.

Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members on the bench that heard the case at the Supreme Court Lahore registry.

Justice Saqib made it clear that if Musharraf does not appear in the court by 2pm today, a decision will be taken in absentia about his eligibility to contest elections. “Musharraf should get benefit of this concession,” he remarked.

The CJP also made some sarcastic remarks on former commando’s feeling insecure and frightened – that was keeping him from returning to Pakistan – and his alleged illness. The court also made it clear that it already has given enough assurances about his security.

Musharraf faces a plethora of cases, including the treason case and murder cases of late prime minister Benazir Bhutto and Nawab Akbar Bhugti. He left Pakistan in March 2016 when a three years travel ban on him was lifted. Fearing arrest, he has not come back since then.

Last week the Supreme Court had allowed Musharraf to file nomination papers for the July 25 general elections on the condition that he would appear personally before the court on June 13. The court however made it clear that his nomination papers would be subjected to the final outcome of the case.

After the court’s order, Pervez Musharraf submitted nomination papers for Chitral’s NA-1 seat through his attorney, but he did not return to the country to appear before the SC - despite court’s ordering to authorities to unblock his CNIC and passport.

The CJP earlier had also given him assurance that he won’t be arrested on the airport upon his arrival and be allowed to appear in court for hearing of his disqualification appeal.

An official of his party later said the former dictator wanted more assurance s from the court before deciding to return to the country.

During Wednesday’s hearing, Pervez Musharraf’s counsel Malik Qamar Afzal submitted that the government had blocked his client’s CNIC and passport and created an atmosphere of fear and terror.

He said his client was ready to return to Pakistan and face all cases but he should be provided guarantee of protection.

This irked the top judge who remarked that “the court is not bound to accept his (Musharraf) terms”. The CJP further said, “We have already made it clear that he would not be arrested.”

“How could a commando like Musharraf be [so] terrified?” the CJP said sarcastically, reminding the lawyer of the boastful statements his client would make every now and then.

Musharraf on many occasions, while he was in power, used to say that he is commando and he fears no one. He would also say that he has fought wars and escaped death several times but he never felt frightened.

“If Pervez Musharraf is a commando, he should show us by returning [to country] instead of continuously parroting like a politician that he will return,” the CJP said.

“He didn’t feel afraid when he was taking over this country [through a military coup],” he sarcastically remarked.

“What does Musharraf need protection from [now] and what is he so afraid of?” the CJP asked. “He [Musharraf] should come to the court if he is a [real] commando,” he further remarked.

“We’ve already said that if Musharraf returns, he will be provided with security. We are not bound to also provide a written guarantee in this regard,” Justice Saqib said.

The judge said the court was giving him one more chance to return to the country. “If he doesn’t return, the scrutiny of his nomination papers will not be permitted,” he warned.

Musharraf’s counsel pleaded the court that his client was suffering from the disease and a medical board was needed to be set up. At this, the CJP said the court would form a medical board if Musharraf returns in an air ambulance.

Taking a jibe at the former military dictator, the chief justice asked his lawyer, “If Musharraf is suffering from Parkinson disease how he’ll wave his hands [to his supporters] during the election.”

The counsel prayed the court the former dictator’s nomination papers for the 2013 election be restored, contending that the high court verdict on the basis of which they were rejected had been made in absentia.

On it, the CJP expressed dismay observing that what other assurance he wanted from the Supreme Court. The court held that the former military ruler should return and face all the cases against him.

“Musharraf should face the law, the nation and the courts,” Justice Saqib Nisar remarked. He also said, “The court will examine whether to allow Musharraf to leave the country again if he returns.”

The court also made it clear that the Supreme Court never allowed Musharraf to go abroad.

“The SC did not grant Musharraf permission to travel abroad... It was the government which excluded his name from the ECL and permitted him to leave the country. The court’s decision [on this issue] was wrongly interpreted,” the Chief Justice said.

 

 

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