former president treason trial put off, once again

ISLAMABAD: A special court seized with former president retired Gen Pervez Musharraf’s treason trial adjourned the proceedings against him for a month as the law ministry has yet to finalise selection of a lawyer to represent him.

Acting Law and Justice Secretary Arshad Farooq Fahim told the three-judge special court headed by Chief Justice of the Balochistan High Court Tahira Safdar that the law ministry had shortlisted lawyers as defence counsel in the treason case against Gen Musharraf but could not finalise their names due to various reasons.

The special court had on June 12 barred Gen Musharraf’s lawyer Barrister Salman Safdar from arguing on his behalf and directed the law ministry to appoint a defence lawyer. Hence, on June 27, the ministry suggested the names of six lawyers to represent Gen Musharraf in the treason case at state expense. They were Syed Ali Zafar, Raja Amir Abbas, Shah Khawar, Ishfaq Naqvi, Tahir Malik and Riaz Hanif Rahi.

Acting Law and Justice Secretary Fahim told the court that lawyers Ali Zafar and Amir Abbas had declined. He said that another lawyer had demanded excessive fee, while the rest said they needed more time to go through the case.

Mr Fahim requested the court to adjourn the case to give the law ministry time to find lawyers who could represent Gen Musharraf.

Case history

On May 2, Gen Musharraf’s plea for adjourning the hearing of his case till the end of Ramazan was accepted by the special court which decided that the proceedings would be held after June 12.

The former president has been declared an absconder by the special court as he has not been appearing before the court since March 2016, when he left the country.

Currently, Gen Musharraf lives in Dubai and has been unable to attend hearings in Pakistan as he is reportedly receiving medical treatment for a rare disease.

The Supreme Court had in April instructed the special court to conclude the trial of the former military dictator even if he does not appear before it.

Gen Musharraf was booked in a treason case in December 2013. He was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the prosecution had tabled the entire evidence before the special court in September the same year. However, due to litigation at appellate forums, the trial of the former military dictator lingered on and he left Pakistan in March 2016.

Gen Musharraf’s previous lawyer, Barrister Safdar, had earlier told the court that his client was ready to appear before the court and record his statement under Section 342 of the Criminal Procedure Code but could not do so because of his serious ailment. He said the former president was too sick to record his statement even through a video link.

Barrister Safdar had also argued that the interior secretary recorded his statement before the special court in 2016, saying that Gen Musharraf was allowed to leave the country on “humanitarian grounds”. He said that the then government was convinced that the accused required medical treatment abroad and subsequently let him go.

According to his lawyer, Gen Musharraf was 76 years of age and suffering from various diseases and, therefore, his doctors had advised him not to travel to Pakistan.