Islamabad: A top Pakistani court on Wednesday stopped a special tribunal from announcing its verdict in the high treason case against General (retd) Pervez Musharraf on Thursday, in a temporary relief to the former military dictator who has been declared a "proclaimed offender".
The special tribunal on 19 November concluded the trial proceedings in the case against 76-year-old Musharraf for declaring a state of emergency on 3 November, 2007, and for subverting the Constitution. It had ruled that a verdict in the case would be announced on 28 November.
The Islamabad High Court (IHC) on Wednesday stopped the special tribunal from issuing the ruling on Thursday in the high treason case against Musharraf, Dawn News reported.
Musharraf, who left the country in May, 2016, for medical treatment has not returned.
Pakistan's former military dictator, who is living in Dubai in self-exile, also challenged the special court's decision in the Lahore High Court on Saturday and sought suspension of his trial in absentia. His lawyer contended that the reserving of the verdict on 19 November was "unconstitutional and void".
"For reasons to be recorded later, we allow writ petition (...) filed by the Ministry of Interior," a three-member IHC bench headed by Chief Justice Athar Minallah said in its brief order on Wednesday, setting aside the special court's decision to reserve its judgement in the case.
In a surprise move, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) government of Prime Minister Imran Khan had on Monday come in aid of Musharraf, seeking deferment of the announcement of the verdict in the high treason case on 28 November.
If found guilty, the former Pakistan Army chief could be sentenced to death or imprisonment for life.
The IHC has asked the federal government to form a new prosecution team for the high treason case by 5 December and also directed the special court to hear pleas of all sides and decide Musharraf's case in accordance with the law.
"It also remarked that the reasons to stop the hearing of the special court would be announced later," the report said.
Earlier, during the hearing, Additional Attorney General (AAG) Sajid Ilyas Bhatti informed the bench that he had received the case file and orders to appear before the court just 30 minutes before.
The bench remarked that he was representing the federal government and should be aware of facts about the case.
"How can you proceed without complete information?" asked Justice Minallah.
The bench then asked the AAG to call in someone who knew facts about the case. "A representative from the Ministry of Law and Justice, who knows the case," he added.
Musharraf's lawyer tried to argue, but the bench stopped him and remarked that the court will first hear the petition of the interior ministry, Geo News reported.
"Pervez Musharraf has been declared a proclaimed offender as per the law," it quoted Justice Minallah as saying.
As Pakistan President, Musharraf imposed emergency and suspended the Constitution in 2007, which according to Article 6 of the Constitution was an act of high treason.
The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government filed the treason case against the former president in 2013 over the imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in 2007.
Musharraf became Pakistan's first army chief to be charged with treason when he was indicted on 31 March, 2014. He pleaded not guilty to five charges and dismissed them as being politically motivated.
The hearing in the high-profile case was stalled after Musharraf left Pakistan for Dubai for medical treatment on 18 March, 2016, with a commitment to come back. He managed to go abroad after his name was removed from the no-fly list on the orders of the Supreme Court.
A few months later, however, the special court declared him a "proclaimed offender" and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his no-show at the hearings. He has repeatedly refused to return to Pakistan citing security reasons.
Musharraf seized power in 1999 by toppling the government of prime minister Nawaz Sharif and ruled until 2008 when he was forced to step down.
According to previous Pakistani media reports, Musharraf suffers from amyloidosis, a rare disease caused by the build-up of an abnormal protein called amyloid in organs and tissues in the body, and is under medication.
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Updated Date: Nov 28, 2019 09:37:42 IST