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Thursday Mar 07 2019

Govt, not the court, allowed Musharraf to leave country: SC

ISLAMABAD: The Supreme Court on Thursday sought a report from the special court regarding the delay in the high treason case against former army chief and president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf and sought a reply from the government regarding measures taken for his return to the country.

A three-judge bench headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Justice Asif Saeed Khosa heard a Lahore High Court Bar Association's review petition on high treason proceedings against Musharraf.

As the hearing went under way, CJP Khosa remarked, "Petitioner Taufeeq Asif said Musharraf is not in the country and the trial has been halted."

CJP Khosa inquired what measured the government had taken to call back Musharraf to the country. "It was said that the court allowed him to go abroad, but the government and not the court permitted him to. The court had left it to the government, the court order did not state that Musharraf be sent abroad," the top judge added.

"If Musharraf does not come back then his statement can be recorded via video link. If he still does not record his statement via video link, then it will be understood that he has denied the charges and the special court can write 'denied' in front of all his statements," Justice Khosa said.

"Should the government become hostage to a suspect? If a suspect does not appear, then does the court become helpless? The special court was directed to take immediate steps," he continued.

The bench stated that a high treason case has been registered against Musharraf and a special court was formed for his trial. "The trail has been halted because Musharraf is not in the country."

Report sought from special court registrar

The bench then sought a report from the special court registrar regarding delay in the case. Directing the special court registrar to submit the report within 15 days, the bench said the registrar should give reasons for delay in the trial.

The court also issued notices to the federal government and all respondents in the case. The attorney general has been directed to submit a reply on behalf of the federal government and appear in person for the next hearing.

"Everyone is equal before the law. The attorney general should apprise us of the measures taken by the government for Musharraf's return," the chief justice said.

"We will not keep irrelevant cases under trial and pending. You will be happy to hear that in the last one and a half month, pending cases have been reduced by 2,000." 

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.

Last month, 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 since he failed to return to the country despite a last chance. 

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