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January 15, 2020

Complicated case

Editorial

 
January 15, 2020

In yet another twist in the case involving former dictator General Pervez Musharraf under treason charges against him, the Lahore High Court has ruled that the Special Court which had been set up in 2014 to decided on the matter had been wrongfully constituted. This is surprising for many legal experts, given that the Special Court was supervised by the Supreme Court of Pakistan, judges making up the bench changed several times and hearings held. No one had during this period pointed out that the whole process was meaningless as the court itself was illegal. There is also the question of whether a lower court can deem the decision made by a higher court, in this case the apex court of Pakistan, incorrect. Lawyers following the case have also pointed out that both the defence and the prosecution in the hearing at the LHC appeared to have taken a strange stance. Even the amicus curiae did not differ from this point of view.

Various legal lacunae are being discussed, with Law Minister Farrogh Naseem holding that, while General Musharraf may have abrogated the constitution, the Special Court had been set up only to determine if he had committed any criminal act. This is a matter for legal experts to decide. General Musharraf had imposed emergency on Nov 3, 2007 in his role as chief of army staff rather than as president of the country, and this too raises some concerns. It is yet to be seen if the government, which is the complainant in the case, will seek an appeal in the matter. The most relevant element however is that the precedent set by the Special Court verdict seems to have effectively been undone. There have so far been no complaints from other political parties which themselves had been affected in the past by such actions by dictators.

While going into the details of the case, government members say that the cabinet had never approved the presentation of the case and LHC judges too noted there was no notification stating that such a decision had been taken. While there may be loopholes in the case, to many legal observers the argument that a judgment delivered in absentia is invalid and goes against established values is somewhat redundant given that Musharraf himself had been summoned many times did not appear. The entire case spread out over six long years will continue to draw legal comments and may well end at this point unless some party decides to make an appeal to the apex court. Right now, this seems somewhat unlikely.

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