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June 15, 2018

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Musharraf can’t contest elections

LAHORE: The Supreme Court on Thursday shut the door on former dictator Pervez Musharraf to contest the upcoming general election by withdrawing the order permitting him to submit nomination papers after he failed to appear in person.

A four-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, was hearing Musharraf's appeal against his 2013 disqualification by the Peshawar High Court at the Supreme Court Lahore Registry. Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed, Justice Umar Ata Bandial and Justice Ijaz-ul-Ahsan were the other members of the bench.

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, had made it clear that his nomination papers would be subjected to the final outcome of the case.

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

The court had said that the former army chief's nomination papers would be received bythe returning officer, but were to be considered only if he appeared in person at the Supreme Court’s Lahore Registry.

The chief justice then on Wednesday gave the former president until 2pm Thursday to appear in person or face action according to the law. “Musharraf wants to return to the country but cannot owing to the current situation and Eid-ul-Fitr holidays,” the former military chief’s counsel told the bench during the hearing on Thursday. The CJP had earlier in the day inquired about Musharraf’s intention to appear before the court.

“Find out if Musharraf will appear before the court or not,” the chief justice ordered the deputy attorney general, adding that an update regarding the former dictator’s appearance should be submitted in the court at the earliest.

“The hearing was scheduled for 2pm on Thursday but we can wait if Musharraf will appear [before the court],” Chief Justice Nisar said. He observed that the court staff had to leave for Eid holidays.

During the hearing, All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) Secretary-General Dr Amjad and lawyer Moazzam Butt appeared before the court. Musharraf’s lawyer maintained that his client intended to return to Pakistan but was unable to do so due to the present circumstances.

“Musharraf is coming or not?” Chief Justice Nisar asked Advocate Malik Qamar Afzal, the counsel of Pervez Musharraf who replied: “He (Musharraf) is not coming today”. “I personally called him today at 11am to ask him about his plan to return but he told me he wanted more time to come back. “Okay, then we (the court) withdraw the interim relief given him earlier to file nomination papers,” the chief justice observed.

The counsel said he promised to return on which the bench remarked that the case would be fixed after his return. On Wednesday, the chief justice had made it clear that the decision would be taken in absentia about the eligibility of Musharraf to contest elections if he did not appear before the court by 2pm on Thursday.

He said the apex court was not bound to accept Musharraf’s condition regarding guarantee for his return, as the court had already granted him protection by letting him practice politics in Pakistan without any fear.

He said, “If Musharraf is a commando, he should come to Pakistan instead of parroting like politicians. Didn’t you get afraid when you took over the country?” "If Musharraf has ‘tremor’ disorder, then how will he participate in general elections 2018,” he asked.

The top judge had 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 had 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 Bugti. 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.

The chief justice had also given him the 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 from the court before deciding to return to the country. Musharraf’s counsel had argued 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. 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.

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