‘Pakistan Army Defends its Former Chief after Conviction for Treason’

The announcement of the special anti-terrorism court verdict sentencing former military dictator Pervez Musharraf to death in absentia on treason charges has led to both direct and indirect attacks on the judiciary from both the military as well as its supporters.

Both supporters of the military as well as of the government have sought to criticize Musharraf’s conviction. The best rebuttal to this was given by Reema Omer, Legal Advisor South Asia, International Commission of Jurists, in a series of tweets (listed below)

“1. Musharraf was tried for imposition of emergency, which isn’t treason

“False. Musharraf was charged on many counts, incl. subverting the constitution/holding it in abeyance, which squarely fall under Art 6. Also, SC has said this “emergency” was martial law with another name.

“2. Musharraf was tried for suspending the constitution, which wasnt an offence in 2007. This amounts to retrospective punishment

“False. SC has held holding constitution in abeyance is subverting the constitution, and subversion has been a part of Art 6 (high treason) since 1973

“3. Musharraf couldn’t have been tried without including aiders/abettors to the crime

False. SC has categorically said that there is no need to postpone the trial until aiders/abettors are included. If Govt wants, it should launch a fresh investigation against others responsible

“Finally, Musharraf was denied a fair trial as he was tried in his absence

Even under int. standards, trial in absentia is permissible provided certain safeguards are ensured such as giving accused opportunity to participate, which were largely ensured.”

The other tactic appears to openly attack the individual judges. The PTI-run government’s recently appointed Law Minister Farogh Naseem “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. “Keeping in view Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth’s observations, the federal government has decided to approach the Supreme Judicial Council and file a request stating that such a judge has no authority to be a judge of a high court or the Supreme Court of Pakistan. He is unfit. “When such observations are given, not only is the court’s privilege hurt, it becomes a test for the administration of justice. “Our request is, because he has proven himself to be mentally unfit and incompetent, he must immediately be prevented from working. We request the Supreme Court judges to restrain him from any administrative or judicial work,” said the law minister.”

Such an open attack on an institution of state led the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan to release its statement expressing concern “at the mounting tension between two key institutions of the state, and deprecates the sustained assault on the judiciary. The court’s verdict, which finds General Pervez Musharraf guilty of treason, sets an important precedent. The objections to paragraph 66, and the storm it has created, should not depreciate the main body of the judgment. While reiterating its opposition to the death penalty in all cases, the Commission also urges all state institutions to remember that they have pledged their loyalty to the Constitution. This is the bedrock of Pakistan’s democracy and of the state’s duty to protect the fundamental rights of its people.”

Author: Shaista Sindhu

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Author: Shaista Sindhu