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Musharraf's aiders, abettors 'equally guilty', says special court in detailed verdict on treason case

The PTI govt had already made it clear that it will not oppose an appeal against the special court’s verdict

By Web Desk
December 19, 2019

A special court in Islamabad on Thursday, in its detailed verdict of the death sentence handed to General (retd) Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case, observed that  the act of suspending the Constitution was not a one-man job, adding that the former military dictator's uniformed accomplices were  "equally and full involved".

On Tuesday, the court had sentenced Musharraf to death for imposing a state of emergency on November 3, 2007, adding that it had found him guilty of high treason in accordance with Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.

It was a majority verdict, with two of the three judges giving the decision against Musharraf. 

The case was heard by a bench comprising Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth of the Peshawar High Court, Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court and Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court. The bench was formed on the orders of the Supreme Court.

The special court, in its detailed verdict authored by Justice Seth, stated that Musharraf “has been afforded more than his due share of fair trial” and “given every opportunity to defend himself”. The court said that “the facts of the case are well documented” and “clearly demonstrate the guilt on the part of the accused”.

“It proves beyond a shadow of reasonable doubt all the charges of High Treason levelled against the accused by the State,” the verdict adds.

“We, with the majority of 2 as to 1, allow the complaint and hold the accused guilty of high treason as defined at Article 6 of the Constitution and pass punishment under section 2 High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973. Thus, the convict be hanged by his neck till he is dead,” it reads.

"This Court after the presentation of undeniable, irrefutable and unimpeachable evidence by the prosecution against the accused reaches to the conclusion that indeed accused [Musharraf] is guilty and deserves exemplary punishment."

'Musharraf's uniformed accomplices equally guilty'

“It is unbelievable and unimaginable that such an extreme act is committed alone by a single man in uniform,” Justice Seth further wrote in the verdict. “The then Corps Commanders Committee, in addition to all uniformed officers who were guarding him each and every time, with boots on, are equally and full involved in the act and deeds of the accused person.”

“The then Corps Commanders Committee, in addition to all uniformed officers who were guarding him [Musharraf] each and every time, with boots on, are equally and full involved in the act and deeds of the accused person.”

"Each and every member of the Armed Forces, as per their oath under the 3rd schedule to the Constitution in pursuance to Article 244 is bound to bear true faith and allegiance to Pakistan and uphold the constitution which embodies the will of the people," the judgement stated. "They have also sworn not to engage themselves in any political activities whatsoever."

The judgement had stern words for everyone who enabled Musharraf. "Every member of the Armed Forces has also solemnly affirmed that he will honestly and faithfully serve Pakistan, as required by and under the law and in this respect, the oath has been violated by each and every member of the higher command in the armed forces by failing to preserve, protect and defend the Constitution, either siding, aiding, supporting or facilitating the accused or remaining silent to this act while being in uniform as the accused's plane had not yet landed that his cronies unconstitutionally on the ground, for the first time when the constitution was usurped in the year 1999."

The judge noted that Musharraf’s aiders and abettors had not been made part of the complaint when it was filed by the federal government. However, the verdict said, that does not absolve the government from “investigating these officers and filing a complaint against them”.

Justice Nazar Akbar's dissenting note

Justice Nazar of the Sindh High Court, who dissented from the verdict, pointed out that the word ‘high treason’ is not defined in the Constitution and the court relied on the definition given in dictionaries.

“In the offence under Article 6 of the Constitution, the charging word is ‘high treason’, therefore, without properly appreciating what does it mean, this Court cannot pass a just and fair verdict,” the note reads.

“Admittedly the word "high treason" is not defined in the Constitution or any other relevant law for the benefit of this Court. But for this reason, both the learned counsel for the prosecution and my learned brothers have referred to the definition of "high treason" by relying on the meaning of ‘High Treason’ given in the Oxford Dictionary (tenth Edition).”

'Pakistan Army in anguish '

Soon after the short order was issued on Tuesday, Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor said the verdict was received with a "lot of pain and anguish" by Pakistan Army, according to Director-General of the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR) Major General Asif Ghafoor.

The federal government, too, had expressed its reservations, saying the requirements for a fair trial under Article 10-A were not fulfilled in the case.

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan had made it clear that the government will not oppose an appeal against the special court’s verdict.

High treason case

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf in November 2007.

Head of the prosecution, Mohammad Akram Sheikh had tendered his resignation in 2018. In his resignation letter sent to the interior secretary, Sheikh expressed his inability to proceed with the case after the imminent change of government at the centre.

Sheikh was appointed as the head of the prosecution in the case in November 2013, by the then-PML-N government.

The former army chief was indicted in the case in March 2014 after he appeared before the court. He had rejected all the charges.

On March 18, 2016, the former president left Pakistan for Dubai for medical treatment after his name was removed from the exit control list on the orders of the Supreme Court.

A few months later, the special court had declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his continuous inability to appear.

Later, his passport and identity card were also cancelled on the orders of the apex court.