ISLAMABAD: Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Asif Saeed Khosa on Thursday said that the statement of former military dictator General (r) Pervez Musharraf — who is facing a treason case — can be recorded through a video link if the former army chief refuses to return to Pakistan.
The remarks were made during the hearing of a petition filed by Taufeeq Asif, the ex-president of Lahore High Court’s Rawalpindi bench’s bar association, which pointed out that the proceedings of the treason case — being heard by a special court — had come to a halt since Musharraf had not returned to the country since 2016.
The bench hearing Asif’s petition regretted that the proceedings were in a limbo even though a special court had been constituted to hear the treason case against Musharraf.
The former president has been indicted in a high treason case for suspending the Constitution on Nov 3, 2007. He left for Dubai in 2016 to “seek medical treatment” and hasn’t returned since.
The chief justice, during Thursday’s hearing, inquired about the steps taken so far by the federal government to bring the former president back to Pakistan. Referring to the notion that the court had excluded Musharraf’s name from the ECL (Exit Control List), he said: “It was not the court [that let Musharraf leave], the government let him go.”
“It was the government’s responsibility to place Musharraf’s name on the ECL as well as to bring him back to the country.”
The chief justice said that Musharraf’s statement could be recorded through a video link.
“If he still refuses to record a statement, then [the special court] can assume that he [Musharraf] has denied all charges,” the top judge remarked, adding: “The special court can write ‘denied’ before every statement by the suspect.”
“Should the court become hostage to a suspect? Do courts become helpless if a suspect does not show up?” Justice Khosa asked. He declared that no suspect was “big or small” as everyone was equal before the law.
He reiterated his resolve to wrap up “unimportant cases” and informed the court that the number of pending cases had reduced by 2,000 over the past one and a half month.
“All judges have played their role in reducing the backlog of cases,” Justice Khosa said.
The SC bench also directed the special court registrar to “submit a report within 15 days” after a delay in submission. It also issued notices to the federal government and all the respondents in the case and directed the attorney general to submit a reply on Centre’s behalf in the next hearing.
“He ought to apprise us of the measures taken by the government [to being home Musharraf],” CJP said.
The SC, earlier fixed for March 7, a contempt petition for not initiating high treason proceedings against Gen (r) Musharraf for abrogating the constitution by imposing emergency and Provisional Constitutional Order (PCO) on November 3, 2007.
The treason case was started in November 2013 months after the PML-N’s government came into power.
The SC, led by incumbent CJP Khosa, had directed to conclude the trial expeditiously. However, the trial could not be concluded in the last six years due to several reasons.
Firstly, the special court in the start directed the federal government to include three more individuals for initiating treason case against them. Due to that order, the proceeding remained suspended for a couple of years. Later, the SC set aside the special court order, directing to conclude trial against Musharraf only.
In the meanwhile, the former army chief went abroad due to medical reasons. He has yet to return. Likewise, several judges, who were a part of the special court, have been either retired or elevated to the apex court.
The case remained a reason of civil-military tension during the PML-N regime. The treason case proceedings have almost halted during the tenure of the PTI-led government.