Special court chastises government for trying to modify charge sheet and include new suspects at last minute
A special court headed by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth on Tuesday sentenced former Army chief Pervez Musharraf to death under Article 6 of the Constitution in a high treason case related to his declaration of a state of emergency in 2007.
The sentence was announced in absentia as the former president has been in Dubai since 2016, when he was allowed to leave Pakistan to seek medical treatment. He was declared an absconder the same year over his failure to appear in court despite multiple summons.
Article 6 of the Constitution says: “Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution by use of force or show force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.” According to the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973, the punishment for high treason is death or life imprisonment.
The special court, comprising Seth, Sindh High Court Justice Nazar Akbar and Lahore High Court Justice Shahid Karim, had announced it would deliver its verdict today despite multiple attempts by the federal government to prevent it. Ignoring this, the government’s prosecutor submitted three petitions to court during hearings today, claiming it wanted to include the names of three individuals—former prime minister Shaukat Aziz, former Supreme Court justice Abdul Hameed Dogar and former law minister Zahid Hamid—as co-accused over their ‘facilitation’ of Musharraf’s actions.
The court dismissed this, saying the government appeared to be delaying the verdict by adding new indictments on the day the case was set for final arguments. Justice Akbar noted that two additional weeks had been granted to the government to present a modified charge sheet, but it had waited until the last minute. “If you want to add a new suspect, submit a new case,” said Justice Karim. “If these three individuals are suspects, the government should also submit requests to make the former cabinet and corps commanders suspects,” he said, adding that no new request for amending the indictment had been received by the court.
Musharred was booked for treason in December 2013 after the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) came into power. He was subsequently indicted on March 31, 2014. The trial lingered due to litigation at appellate courts, with Musharraf being allowed to leave Pakistan in March 2016 due to ailing health. In October, with the case nearing its conclusion, the government sacked the entire prosecution team in a move widely seen as a delaying tactic in Musharraf’s favor.
The special court was due to issue its verdict last month, but the Islamabad High Court on Nov. 27—just a day before the verdict was due—suspended it after the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf government sought its deferral, claiming it had been poorly prosecuted.
During this time, Musharraf had sought to halt the treason proceedings against him at the Lahore High Court, claiming they were unconstitutional, as he had not been allowed to submit his version of events. The special court, however, has maintained that as an absconder Musharraf has waived his right to reply.
This is the first time in Pakistan’s history that a military chief has been declared guilty of high treason and handed death sentence. The verdict was split 2-1, reported daily Dawn.