Pakistan’s Musharaf Escapes Indictment, For Now

Pakistan's former military ruler has escaped indictment on high treason charges during an appearance before a special court, at least for now.

Posted on 02/19/14
By Sohail Khan in Islamabad | Via ViewsWeek


Former Pakistani military leader and president General Pervez Musharraf. (Photo by Andrew._Griffin, Creative Commons License)
Former Pakistani military leader and president General Pervez Musharraf. (Photo by Andrew._Griffin, Creative Commons License)

Pakistan’s former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf appeared before the special court in Islamabad on Tuesday, February 18. He, however, could not be indicted in a high treason case at the request of his legal team, which pleaded the court to first decide the issue of its jurisdiction for holding the trial and its plea for transferring  the trial to a military court. Musharraf’s legal defense has been insisting that he be tried by a military court rather than a civilian court, since he wore military uniform at the time of his actions that violated Pakistan’s constitution.


A three-member special court headed by Justice Faisal Arab and comprising Justice Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali heard the government’s appeal for initiating high treason trial against the former dictator for subverting the constitution while issuing proclamation of emergency rule on November 3, 2007. Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 till 2008.


In compliance with the special court’s order of February 7, the former military ruler arrived in a heavily protected cavalcade at the National Library in the Pakistani capital (where the court is holding his trial) for the hearing.


Musharraf has been staying at the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) since January 2 where he landed after he felt pain in the chest while traveling for a court appearance. The court had warned to issue Musharraf’s arrest warrants during Feb 7 hearing if he did not appear at the next hearing.


The court in its order ruled that it will first decide the application challenging its jurisdiction and  then the accused will be called again and the charge will be read out to him.


The court adjourned the hearing till Friday, Feb 21, ruling that the decision on the two applications challenging its jurisdiction as well as transferring the trial to military court will be announced the same day. 


Earlier, Anwar Mansoor Ali Khan, counsel for Musharraf pleaded before the court that it should not indict the accused before deciding their applications. Prosecutor Muhammad Akram Sheikh, however, objected to the plea of the defense and submitted that the court should first indict the accused as envisaged in Pakistan’s Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976. 


The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif filed a complaint with the special court, constituted for initiating high treason trail of the former strongman under Article 6 of Pakistan’s constitution for abrogating the constitution on November 3, 2007.


Under the treason case, the former dictator could either face death penalty or life imprisonment.


He was first ordered to appear before the tribunal on December 24 but had missed repeated hearings since then due to bomb scares and health issues.


Musharraf has accused Prime Minister Sharif, whom he ousted in a 1999 coup, of carrying out a “vendetta”. He has asked for government permission to go abroad for medical treatment, which has been denied.


Nawaz Sharif came to power after elections in May 2013 in the first transfer of power from one elected government to another after a full term in Pakistan’s history.


Musharraf has been facing legal challenges since returning to Pakistan in March last year to run in the general elections. He, however, was barred from contesting the vote and hit with a barrage of legal cases dating back to his 1999-2008 rule.

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