LAHORE -

The most vital part of the high treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf would be the pre-trial stage.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has given a policy statement on the floor of the House to initiate trial against Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution, read with High Treason (Punishment) Act of 1973, on the charges that he subverted the Constitution by promulgating PCO on November 3, 2007, deposing and detaining the chief justice of Pakistan and other judges of the superior judiciary.

The prime minister also accused Musharraf of abrogating the Constitution by overthrowing an elected government through a military coup on October 12, 1999. However, the focus of the PM was on the November 3 act of Musharraf, which is also sub judice before the Supreme Court as the basis for holding him liable for high treason. The attorney general also informed the court of the government’s will to try the former army chief for high treason.

In the last 65 years of the country, no precedent is available that a sedition case was registered and tried against any person. For the reason that such a case is always high profile casting far-reaching effects on the future of the country as well as the institutional relations, its enunciation has been put on a high pedestal. Therefore, the federal government, not any ordinary person, has been authorised to get the case registered. Hence proceedings will commence with a notification by the ministry of interior for registration of the case with the FIA. However, before that the interior secretary would appoint a gazetted officer or a team to prepare the case on the facts of the matter.

As per jurists, the most important stage will be preparation of the case under which the accused person/persons would be nominated; witnesses, circumstantial and other supporting evidence and material would be prescribed. There is no limit to investigations, but ordinarily, they take less time to complete if the number of accused persons is less. However, the investigations may take time in the collection of evidence etc. which in the present case can span two to three months.

High treason proceedings are of criminal nature entailing death or life term on conviction; as such the accused after arrest cannot be granted bail as both the offences are non-bailable under the law. For trial of the case, the forum would be the special trial court (central), however, the high court can also take over the trial as it was done in the case against ZA Bhutto. However, the jurists say which forum will suit the present trial may also be decided by the Supreme Court which has already given a three-day time to the AG to come up with instructions on the method and forum of the trial.

The proceedings of the trial will be the same as in other criminal cases the parties will be at liberty to move an appeal against the decision. In the case in hand one striking question is whether Pervez Musharraf would be tried as a former army chief or an ex-president as he was holding both the offices. The jurists say on this count the case will be against the individual and not against the institution he belongs to and will focus on the fact that the individual misused his authority for personal benefits damaging the national interest. Those who abetted Musharraf will also be tried jointly with him.  As to opening the case on the October 12 incident, the jurists say it will form another case whose chances at the moment appear bleak.

However, institution of this case may also be sought by moving the Superior Court. The trial court’s decision would not attain finality as it will also come to the appellate forum for final decision, so it is not days but months which the upcoming sedition case is going to take.