SC orders Musharraf to appear before special court in treason case on May 2 or lose right of defence
Islamabad, April 1 (PTI): Pakistan’s former military dictator Pervez Musharraf was ordered to appear before a special court on May 2 by the Supreme Court in the high treason case and warned him that he would lose the right of defence if he failed to turn up.
A special court indicted General (retd) Musharraf for high treason in March 2014. Musharraf, 75, left for Dubai in 2016 to “seek medical treatment” and has not returned since. Last month, he was admitted to a hospital in Dubai after suffering a reaction from a rare disease for which he is already under treatment.
A three-member bench of the apex court headed by Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa was hearing a petition filed by a lawyer, who pointed out that the proceedings of the treason case being heard by a special court since 2014 had come to a halt as the former president Musharraf had not returned to the country since 2016.
“We cannot let the suspect avail the benefit of not appearing before the court deliberately. High-treason is not an ordinary crime,” Chief Justice Khosa reminded the defence counsel.
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.
In the previous hearing of the petition, the top court had said that it would intervene if the special court, in its next hearing, failed to make a decision on how to record the former president’s statement.
The apex court today said that if Musharraf does not appear before the special court on May 2, he would lose his right to record a statement under Section 342 of the Code of Criminal Procedures.
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 president’s lawyer told the court, Geo News reported.
The court further said that if Musharraf does not appear before the special court on May 2, the court should give its decision based off of the prosecution’s arguments.
A March 28 order of the special court, calling Musharraf to court on May 2, was also presented in the top court on Monday.
The special court had ordered Musharraf to appear before it on May 2. At that hearing, defence lawyer Salman Safdar had said that the former president wished to appear in court on May 13. The three-member bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar had directed Musharraf to appear in court before Ramazan.
Justice Khosa today said that if a suspect is absent on purpose, any action that follows will not be looked at in the category of an absence. “A fugitive has no rights,” the top judge remarked.
Musharraf’s lawyer Safdar, avoided giving a personal guarantee and said that the former president himself wanted to come back and record a statement. He added that May 13 had been given as the date of Musharraf’s return from abroad.
Justice Khosa said that a trial becomes unconstitutional in the absence of a suspect but if a suspect doesn’t appear on purpose, he can not be allowed to take advantage of the situation.
The prosecutor told the court that the case was not taking place in the absence of the former president, adding that Musharraf was present in the court when he had been indicted.
The prosecutor said that after Musharraf was summoned, the former president had given assurances of appearing before the court.
The special court declared Musharraf 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 national identity card were also cancelled.
Musharraf ruled Pakistan from 1999 to 2008. A conviction for high treason carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.