Months after his demise, Pakistan SC agrees to hear Musharraf's appeal against death sentence

Musharraf was found guilty of high treason on Dec 17, 2019, under Article 6 for violation of the Constitution and was sentenced to death in absentia.
FILE - Late Pakistani army general and former President Parvez Musharraf, used for representational purposes only. (Photo | PTI)
FILE - Late Pakistani army general and former President Parvez Musharraf, used for representational purposes only. (Photo | PTI)

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan's Supreme Court on Friday decided to hear an appeal by now-deceased former military dictator Pervez Musharraf against the special court majority judgment that handed him a death sentence on treason charges in 2019.

Musharraf, who died on February 5 this year, had filed the appeal four years ago.

"A four-member larger bench, headed by Chief Justice of Pakistan Qazi Faiz Isa, heard the appeal against a decision to dissolve the special court that was previously hearing the Musharraf treason case," The Express Tribune newspaper reported.

The bench entertained different bars and lawyers' petitions against the Lahore High Court's (LHC) judgment that had declared Musharraf's trial as void.

A three-judge special court of Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, Justice Nazar Akbar, and Justice Shahid Karim in the 2-1 split verdict on December 17, 2019, had found Musharraf guilty of high treason under Article 6 for violation of the Constitution and sentenced him to death in absentia.

The judgment angered the country's powerful army that has ruled over Pakistan for most of the period during its 75-plus years of existence. It was the first time a former top military official had faced such a sentence for treason in Pakistan. The death sentence was later annulled by the Lahore High Court.

On Friday, hearing the petition nine months after Musharraf's death, the apex court inquired why the appeal had not been fixed for a hearing for the past four years, and lamented that it is unfortunate that despite one judge's order in the chamber, the appeal was not fixed for the last four years, the newspaper said.

"If we are not accountable to our system, then how will we be accountable to others," the paper quoted Chief Justice Isa as saying.

Musharraf's counsel, advocate Salman Safdar stated that in February 2020, Justice Umar Ata Bandial had ordered the office to fix the former military dictator's appeal against the Registrar's objections before the larger bench but the case was not listed for the last four years.

The counsel stated that the appeal is a continuity of trial and this should have been heard.

Musharraf, through Safdar, had filed the plea to set aside the conviction by saying that the trial was conducted and completed "in sheer violation of the Constitution as well as the Code of Criminal Proce­dure (CrPC) 1898 as well as the suspension of the judgment in the interest of justice and fair play."

"Subsequently, the hearing of the case was adjourned till November 21," The Express Tribune said.

Musharraf, the architect of the Kargil War in 1999, died in Dubai after a prolonged illness in February 2023. The 79-year-old former military ruler, who had been in the UAE since 2016, was undergoing treatment for amyloidosis at a hospital in Dubai.

The charges against Musharraf, who was sentenced in absentia by the special court, stemmed from his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007, after which dozens of judges were placed under house arrest or sacked, sparking widespread street protests by lawyers.

Musharraf was booked in the high treason case in December 2013 when his old rival, Nawaz Sharif, was in power. He was indicted on March 31, 2014, but the trial was delayed and he left for Dubai two years later to seek treatment.

Musharraf's trial and conviction was the first of its kind for violating Article 6 of the Constitution, which states: "Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds 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."

It would be interesting to note the proceedings as Musharraf died this year and the Special Court verdict to hang him even after his death for violating the Constitution was not implemented.

Musharraf was in the UAE at the time of the decision by the court and never returned until his death when his body was flown and he was buried in Karachi.

"We direct the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk, Islamabad, Pakistan (a large public square near Pakistan's parliament, presidency, and Supreme Court) and be hanged for 03 days," the verdict read.

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