The Supreme Court on Monday, while hearing a high treason case against former president Pervez Musharraf, remarked that the special court should announce a decision after hearing the prosecution as the suspect will lose his right to defend if he fails to appear before court on May 2.
A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa heard the high treason case against Musharraf on the Lahore High Court Bar’s petition.
As the hearing went underway, CJP Khosa inquired whether Musharraf had assured that he will appear before the court on May 2.
“What will happen if Musharraf does not live up to his commitment? This matter cannot be left openhanded.”
Musharraf’s counsel told the court, “We contacted Musharraf’s wife. The former president had set the date for his return as May 13 and he does not want to record his statement via Skype as there are too many documents.”
“As Musharraf’s counsel I cannot assure that he will appear before the court on May 2. It is a matter of his health and he is currently undergoing chemotherapy,” the former premier’s lawyer told the court.
At this, the chief justice remarked, “The court will review Article 9 in detail. As per Article 9, the court can start the trial even in the suspect’s absence and one lawyer has to be appointed for the suspect’s defence.”
“On July 19, 2016, the trial court stated that the case cannot continue in the suspect’s absence. The state should have challenged that decision as they were the complainants. The federal government itself let the suspect leave the country and did nothing to bring him. The federation put itself in a closed street,” CJP Khosa added.
The chief justice further said, “We do not doubt anyone’s intent. The federation itself did nothing after 2016.”
“We need time to focus on whether a legal route can be taken given the circumstances.”
The court then announced a decision on the case and said, “If Musharraf does not appear on May 2, the special court should announce a decision after hearing the prosecution. The suspect will lose his right to defend if he fails to appear before court and will not even have the facility to record his statement under Section 342.”
“However, if Musharraf appears in court on May 2 then he can avail these facilities,” the court added. CJP Khosa, however, remarked, “Although an absconder has no rights.”
High treason case
The Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against Musharraf over the president’s imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007.
Earlier this year, head of the prosecution, Mohammad Akram Sheikh, tendered his resignation. 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.
Sheikh was appointed as the head of the prosecution in the case in November 2013, by the then-PML-N led government.
The former army chief was indicted in the case in March 2014 after he appeared before the court and rejected all 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 no-show.
Later, on orders of the Supreme Court, Musharraf’s passport and identity card were also cancelled.