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Musharraf Treason Verdict Has Drawn A Red Line For Undemocratic Forces: Legal Experts

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The Special Court hearing the case of former President General (retired) Pervez Musharaf has awarded him the death sentence in the case of high treason.

The special bench hearing this case consisted of Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Seth, Sindh High Court Justice Nazar Akbar and Lahore High Court Justice Shahid Karim. The verdict was split 2-1.

The high treason trial against Musharraf for imposing a state of emergency in November 2007 was started in December 2013. The dictator had been charged in 2014 and the trial had lingered on since then.

Naya Daur talked to legal experts for their views on the verdict and comments on questions being raised pertaining to the verdict.

Former member of the prosecution team in Musharraf high treason case has said that the special court’s verdict to award a death sentence to Musharraf had drawn a red line that would act as a deterrent to those undemocratic forces attempting to subvert or abrogate the constitution.

In his comments to Naya Daur, Haider Imtiaz, who was part of the prosecution team that had been denotified in October by the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government, said that according to the evidence provided to the court till 2014, the prosecution team had demanded maximum punishment and the court has made the decision in this regard today.

Regarding the question about what route Musharraf’s legal team would adopt, he said that according to Section 12 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976, an appeal against the decision of the special court could be filed against the Supreme Court within 30 days, and this is what the defence counsel would probably do.

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Moreover, about the implications of the decision, he said that this was the first time that such a decision has been made, whereby a military dictator has been held accountable for subverting the constitution.

He opined that the decision was going to have far reaching consequences as it had drawn a red line by portraying that abrogators of the constitution will be punished. He expressed the hope that this decision would act as a deterrent to the abrogation and subversion of the constitution.

Moreover, lawyer Yasir Latif Hamdani told Naya Daur that the death sentence given to General (r) Pervez Musharraf would be difficult to implement as it would not be easy to extradite Musharraf back to the country.

He added that the defence could make an appeal to turn the death penalty into a life sentence.

He further said that the important thing is that the army believes that Musharraf’s only mistake was that he had suspended the constitution and did not completely do away with it as General Ayub Khan had done. Hence, in the future, any attempts to overthrow the democratic government would mean the complete suspension of the constitution.  

However, there are also those who disagree with these analyses. Legal expert Khalid Ranjha, in his comments to Naya Daur, said that the order given by the special court was a short order, and there is no law that says that a trial court can give such a short order; it has to give the order in detail.

Ranjha also viewed that regarding the implications of the decision on the constitutional and political future of Pakistan, he said that the decision may aid in deterring anyone from adventurism when it comes to abrogating the constitution.

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On the right of fair trial

Khalid Ranjha also said that the decision seems to be a violation of rule of law and the right of fair trial as the decision was made without the court hearing a statement of the person under trial. Hence, one could argue that the decision was not made on merit.

Regarding the question about violation of the right of fair trial, Haider Imtiaz said that the Supreme Court had already settled this matter through a judgement given by Mansoor Ali Shah in April 2019, wherein the court has said that because the accused voluntarily did not join the court proceedings, the continuation of the trial did not infringe the fairness of the trial.

On the question of aiders and abettors

Khalid Ranjha added that the government requested the court today to bring the aiders and abetters of General Musharraf in the line of legal action, but the court rejected the request.

Haider Imtiaz said that this matter had already been settled and Justice Khosa had given a judgement in 2016 which said that in case someone desired action to be taken against aiders and abetters of unconstitutional measures, separate complaints should be filed and there was not need to make legal action against them a part of the proceedings against Musharraf.

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