Nation special report

ISLAMABAD: In an unprecedented and for the first time in Pakistan’s history, a civil judge has sentenced to death for five times to a retired general and Chief of Army Staff, The special court constituted to try former army chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf released the detailed judgment of the high treason case on Thursday.

Musharraf was tried in absentia for high treason handed a death sentence under Article-6 of the Constitution. The bench was headed by Peshawar High Court (PHC) Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth and comprised Justice Nazar Akbar of the Sindh High Court (SHC) and Justice Shahid Karim of the Lahore High Court (LHC).

The verdict, 169-page long, has been authored by Justice Seth. Justice Karim and Justice Seth agreed on the basis of the evidence presented that Musharraf had committed a crime. However, Justice Nazar wrote a dissenting note. The verdict was split 2-1.

“We direct the Law Enforcement Agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad and be hanged for 03 days,” read the detailed verdict.

“It is unbelievable and unimaginable that such an extreme act is committed alone by a single man in uniform,” Justice Seth further wrote in the verdict.

Justice Nazar of the Sindh High Court, who dissented from the verdict, pointed out that the word ‘high treason’, is not defined in the Constitution and the court relied on the definition given in dictionaries.

“In the offence under Article 6 of the Constitution, the charging word is high treason, therefore, without properly appreciating what does it mean, this Court cannot pass a just and fair verdict,” the note reads.

“Admittedly the word high treason is not defined in the Constitution or any other relevant law for the benefit of this Court. But for this reason, both the learned counsel for the prosecution and my learned brothers have referred to the definition of “high treason” by relying on the meaning of ‘High Treason’ given in the Oxford Dictionary (tenth Edition).

The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf in November 2007. Head of the prosecution, Mohammad Akram Sheikh had tendered his resignation in 2018. In his resignation letter sent to the interior secretary, Sheikh expressed his inability to proceed with the case after the imminent change of government at the centre.

The former army chief was indicted in the case in March 2014 after he appeared before the court. He had rejected all the charges. On March 18, 2016, the former president left Pakistan for Dubai for medical treatment after his name was removed from the exit control list on the orders of the Supreme Court. A few months later, the special court had declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his continuous inability to appear.

Govt in action:

Law Minister Farogh Naseem on Thursday announced the federal government’s decision to approach the Supreme Judicial Council (SJC) for the restraining — and subsequent removal — of the judge who had authored the detailed verdict in the Musharraf treason case.

The judgment has been authored by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth who has directed that the “corpse” of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf be “dragged to D-Chowk” and “hanged for 3 days” in paragraph 66.

“I do not understand the authority under which this sort of observation was given,” said Naseem, as he addressed a press conference in Islamabad on Thursday evening.

Referring to a past judgment by Supreme Court Justice Naseem Hasan Shah in which the “universal declaration of human rights in Islam” had been referenced as well Article 14 which speaks of the “fundamental right of the dignity of man” was invoked, the law minister said that it was ruled that public hangings are in contravention to the Constitution and Islam.

“There is no room in Article 6 of the Constitution; in the High Treason Act, 1973; in the Criminal Amendment Act of the special court, 1976; for a judge to have the authority to present such an observation,” said Naseem.

Asif Ghafoor

Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor, the director general of Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), in a briefing held shortly before the government’s, said that after today’s detailed judgment, reservations expressed by the army earlier “are proving to be true”.

At the time the short order had been issued, the ISPR had said: “The due legal process seems to have been ignored including the constitution of a special court, denial of the fundamental right of self defence, undertaking individual specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste.”

The ISPR chief said the verdict issued today — especially the words used in the written order — “transgresses humanity, religion, culture and any other values”.

Maj Gen Ghafoor began by saying that the military had expressed its reservations after Musharraf was sentenced to death by a special court for high treason. He said after today’s detailed judgement in the case against Musharraf “those reservations are proving to be true”.

Following the verdict on December 17, ISPR had issued a swift statement, saying the “decision given by special court has been received with lot of pain and anguish by rank and file of Pakistan Armed Forces”.

Attorney General

Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan on Wednesday said that the sanity of the author of the detailed verdict in the Musharraf treason case is “questionable” and called for his trial and removal under Article 209 of the Constitution.

His remarks came hours after the contentious verdict authored by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth was released, calling for the “corpse” of former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf to be “dragged to D-Chowk” and “hanged for 3 days”.

Speaking to ARYNews, AG Khan said that the verdict was “unconstitutional, unethical, inhuman, and was given by an individual whose sanity is questionable”.

“He must be tried under Article 209 and I will take appropriate measures for immediate action against him,” he said.

“This is a judgment which I strongly condemn.”

The attorney general said that the law provides for any person to be able to move a petition with the supreme judicial council and he intends on undertaking the requisite measures to put such a petition forward.

He remarked that the judgment was based “on personal enmity and vengeance”.