Zahid Hamid, who also served as law minister under Musharraf, resigns following issuance of interim order.
A special tribunal trying former president Pervez Musharraf for treason on Friday ordered the government to add a former prime minister, law minister and chief justice to the charge sheet.
The move will further prolong proceedings against Musharraf over his decision to suspend the Constitution and impose emergency rule in 2007. The charges, first announced by the government a year ago, have raised hackles in the military establishment, which is seen as reluctant to have one of its former chiefs tried by civilians.
Musharraf, 71, returned to Pakistan last April vowing to run in the general elections to “save” the country from Taliban militancy and economic ruin. But he was barred from standing in the May 2013 polls and hit with a series of criminal charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including treason and murder.
The special treason court’s move to add the trio to the charge sheet on Friday was a partial granting of an application by his lawyers to expand the charge sheet to include around 600 other people, They include then-prime minister Shaukat Aziz, law minister Zahid Hamid and judge Abdul Hameed Dogar, who was elevated to chief justice after the November 2007 emergency order. Musharraf’s lawyers had also requested that then chief of Army staff should also be included in the proceedings, but the court has not included his name on the list.
“Based on the material on record, the probability of their involvement as aiders and abettors cannot be ruled out,” the court said in its order signed by two of the three-judge bench hearing the case. “We are therefore of the view that joinder of the then prime minister and the then federal law minister is necessary to secure the ends of justice.”
The third judge on the panel gave a dissenting view, dismissing the application to extend the charges.
Following the issuance of the interim order, Zahid Hamid resigned as federal law minister, a position he had occupied since the Sharif-led government came into power. “He has sent his resignation to the Prime Minister’s Office and has also vacated his office,” said a staff member, speaking on condition of anonymity. “In his resignation he has clearly mentioned that in light of the special court’s orders, he cannot continue as federal minister,” he added.
The case against Musharraf relates to his decision to impose emergency rule shortly before the Supreme Court was due to decide on the legality of his re-election as president a month earlier, while he was still Army chief. He had seized power in a bloodless coup in 1999, deposing Nawaz Sharif, who was elected P.M. for a third time in May last year in a landslide victory.
Some observers have suggested the government’s pursuit of Musharraf is partly motivated by Sharif’s personal grudge against the former general. Since Musharraf was indicted in March there have been regular rumors of a backroom deal to allow him to leave Pakistan to avoid a destabilizing confrontation between the government and the Army.