Published On: Thu, Jun 13th, 2019
Published in Category: Court News

Special court to conclude treason trial in Parvez Musharraf’s absence

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ISLAMABAD: The special court hearing a treason case against former president general (retd) Parvez Musharraf has decided to take proceedings forward and conclude the trial in the absence of the former army chief.

Parvez Musharraf currently resides in Dubai and has been unable to attend hearings in Pakistan as he is reportedly receiving medical treatment for a “rare disease”.

On Wednesday, a three-member bench headed by Balochistan High Court Chief Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar observed that the court proceedings could no longer be halted due to the accused’s illness. The court declared that Musharraf has lost the right to engage a counsel unless he surrenders.

“In view of the established principle that a trial could not be held in abeyance or could be adjourned for an indefinite period couple with findings of the Supreme Court of Pakistan, whereby it was held that the accused being fugitive from law, thus loses his right to audience, also lost to have an advocate appointed to defend him unless he surrenders himself before the court,” reads the written order.

“As decided by the Supreme Court, the learned counsel presently representing the accused neither could represent him nor could defend him [accused] with the exception the accused appears and surrenders himself before the court.”

The special court has directed the Ministry of Law and Justice to recommend a panel of advocates to defend the former army chief, in line with Section 9 of Criminal Law Special Court Act 1976.

“In the view of the described state of facts and in compliance of the decision given by Supreme Court for further proceedings of the trial a counsel is to be appointed to defend the accused as required by the Section 9 of the Act 1976. The Ministry of Law and Justice, Government of Pakistan, is directed to submit a panel of advocate for the purpose along with the package of fee to be paid to the advocate, so appointed to enable this court to further proceed with the case, as required.”

The decision came after the defence counsel Salman Safdar said the former president and army chief was physically and mentally unfit to return to the country.

Maintaining that the former president was “underweight” and “fighting for his life”, Musharraf’s lawyer had requested for another exemption. “He is on a wheelchair and cannot walk,” he told the court.

The counsel said he was embarrassed to repeatedly seek adjournments but said Musharraf’s health had deteriorated sharply over recent months. He had requested for permission to record Musharraf’s statement via video link.

Musharraf’s counsel said that he was embarrassed by repeatedly submitting requests to adjourn the case’s hearing. He said that his client was rapidly losing weight, adding that he was unable to walk and used a wheelchair. Safdar asked for one more chance so that Musharraf could himself appear in court. He said that the former military dictator was having “heart chemotherapy” because of which his health had deteriorated.

Justice Safdar remarked that the Supreme Court had given a verdict, to which the lawyer responded that he was aware of this and requested that the plea be accepted on the basis of compassion.

The bench of the special court asked the lawyer to read the Supreme Court verdict from April 1.

On April 1, the apex court had directed the special court to proceed with the trial on the next date of hearing (May 2) and in case the former president surrendered and appeared before it, he would be entitled to record his statement.

But if he failed to appear, being a PO (proclaimed offender), the special court was empowered to proceed against him even in his absence under Section 9 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973, the top court had held.

The prosecutor’s lawyer Dr Tariq Hassan in his arguments today said that the court had given Musharraf the chance to give his statement through a video link.

He presented arguments regarding Musharraf’s health in response to which Justice Safdar enquired: “Are you speaking against his physical health?”

Justice Nazar Akbar asked if he wanted confirmation about Musharraf’s health, which the lawyer denied.

Justice Shahid Karim that they need to look at whether or not to approve the request to adjourn the case. The prosecutor’s lawyer opposed the adjournment.

The three-judge bench rejected Gen Musharraf’s plea to adjourn the case.

While speaking to the media, Musharraf’s lawyer said that they had presented medical and photographic evidence in court so that the judges could get an idea of Musharraf’s condition.

He said that there were “no two opinions” about his client’s current condition, adding that he was very unwell.

Safdar said that the current plea was not an excuse, the former military dictator was unwell, adding that Musharraf had stayed in the country for three to four years but the trial had not been completed.

“It was a small trial, it would have been reasonable if it was completed in his presence,” said the lawyer.

He alleged that the petitioner from the interior ministry had himself sent Musharraf abroad. “Today he is himself not accepting Musharraf’s illness,” he said.

Safdar said that therefore they had submitted another plea today. He reiterated that his client was unwell and was wheelchair bound. “If the doctor gives him permission, he will certainly come to Pakistan,” he said.

Safdar said that now the federal government will make a panel of lawyers after which the court will make a decision about who will represent Musharraf, adding that he was ready to give the lawyers his assistance. The special court also declared the acquittal plea of Parvez Musharraf as non-maintainable. The court has now set June 27 as the next date of hearing.

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