A Special Court on Tuesday adjourned the hearing of treason trial of former army chief and President Pervez Musharraf as he failed to appear before the court due to a serious security threat. The court also directed its registrar to ensure adequate security to Musharraf with a view to helping him appear before the bench on the next hearing scheduled for January 01, 2014 when the court will formally frame high treason charges against him.
The special court led by Justice Faisal Arab with Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar and Justice Yawar Ali its members conducted preliminary hearing in response to a complaint of the federal government for initiating high treason trial against Musharraf for allegedly abrogating the constitution and declaring state of emergency of November 3, 2007.
The hearing of the matter commenced amid strict security in and outside the National Library where Law Enforcement Agencies (LEAs) personnel were deployed. They were even present in the courtroom. Empty cargo containers were placed as security barrier outside the courtroom where more than 100 security persons were deputed. Appearing before the bench, Sharifuddin Pirzada, Anwar Mansoor Khan, Dr Khalid Ranjha and Chaudhry Faisal Hussain stoutly defended Musharraf.
During the course of proceedings, defence lawyers filed two separate petitions to raise objections on creation of the special court and the appointment of prosecutor on various grounds. The bench allowed them to file objection petitions, saying the court would examine the objections. Anwar Mansoor Khan submitted that his client was not provided a copy of the complaint with the summons; to which Justice Faisal Arab directed the registrar to hand over a copy of the complaint to him.
Anwar Mansoor Khan apprised the bench that his client was not able to appear before the court due to security threats, saying five kilogrammes of explosive material and two pistols were found close to the route that Musharraf was due to take from his residence to court.
Khan submitted that he could not ensure the presence of Musharraf before the court till provision of adequate security to him. After realising the situation, the court directed the defence counsel to file an application – only once – for exemption of the accused from appearing before the court. Prosecutor Naseer-ud-din Khan Nayyar submitted that current matter was a criminal case, saying the presence of the accused before the court was mandatory, adding that an accused must be in attendance and non-bail able warrants should be issued in case of his absence.
To which, the bench observed that gravity of the situation must be considered because defence counsel submitted that there was a life threat to his client. Nayyar argued that the court should fix a date to indict the accused, but Justice Faisal Arab said that due process of law would be observed in the matter. The court directed Anwar Masoor Khan to file a proper application for the exemption of the accused from appearing before the court for a day and announced that it will re-assemble at 11 am. The bench ruled that the complaint will be read out to the accused on the next date of hearing. The hearing of the matter was adjourned till January 01.
AFP adds: The 70-year-old had been expected to appear in person before a specially-convened court in Islamabad, after legal efforts to have the tribunal ruled invalid failed. The treason allegations are the latest in a series of serious criminal charges relating to Musharraf’s 1999-2008 rule brought since he returned from exile in March.
His aides and lawyers have dismissed the cases as politically motivated, accusing the government and others of trying to use the courts to settle old scores. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was the man Musharraf ousted when he seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999. It is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a former military ruler has been put on trial for treason and the case puts the government on a collision course with the all-powerful army, which faces the embarrassment of having its former chief tried by civilians.
The treason charges relate to Musharraf’s imposition of emergency rule in November 2007 and if found guilty he could face the death penalty or life imprisonment. Justice Faisal Arab, heading the three-member bench at the special court, adjourned the hearing to January 1 after police found explosives, a detonator and two pistols close to the route Musharraf was due to take from his house to the court. Muhammad Asjad, the police chief for Chak Shahzad, the Islamabad suburb where Musharraf lives, told AFP the material had not been assembled into a bomb.
Musharraf is expected to attend the next hearing, where state prosecutor Naseer-ud-din Khan Nayyar told AFP the charges would be read out to him. The court will also consider two petitions filed by Musharraf’s 10-strong legal team challenging the authority of the special court and objecting to the appointment of the prosecutor. There have been persistent rumours that a deal would be struck to let him leave Pakistan before facing the courts to avoid a clash between the army and government. But no deal has been forthcoming and last week, speaking publicly for the first time since his house arrest began, Musharraf vowed to stay and fight to clear his name.
Author: Khudayar Mohla