The special court on Friday dismissed a defence application, which questioned the neutrality of special public prosecutor Muhammed Akram Sheikh in the high treason trial against former president General (retd) Pervez Musharraf.
The defence had filed a criminal miscellaneous application, which demanded that the federal government be directed to appoint an independent and impartial legal practitioner as prosecutor and had alleged that Mr. Sheikh was close to Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The order of the special court on Friday said when Musharraf appeared in court on March 31, he not only stated that he has full confidence in the judicial process as well as each member of this bench but he also said he had faith in the prosecution team. The order said that the validity of the notification appointing Mr. Sheikh was already dealt with by the Islamabad High Court and there is an intra-court appeal pending.
The special court is a statutory court established to try the present criminal case [high treason against Musharraf]. The order said it not only lacks jurisdiction to exercise judicial review of administrative actions as available to a High Court, it also cannot sit in appeal over an issue, which has already been adjudicated upon by the Islamabad High Court. Any decision if it is in conflict with the decision on merit of the High Court, would not only cause confusion and complication but would also be without jurisdiction. In the circumstances, the special court said it was left with no other alternative but to hold that this application was not maintainable in law and accordingly dismissed it.
The case will now be heard on a daily basis from April 24, when the defence will present further arguments in the application on the inclusion of other names along with that of Musharraf who should be tried for high treason.
The order of the court said the defence counsel had argued that the Mr. Sheikh was appointed by the Interior Ministry instead of the federal government. Various talk shows on TV were cited by the defence to state that Mr. Sheikh was interested only in securing the conviction of the accused and compromised his role as an independent prosecutor. The prosecutor’s conduct was in infringement of the right of the accused to have a fair trial as guaranteed under the Constitution, it was submitted.
Dr. Tariq Hassan, who argued on behalf of the prosecution, had contended that these objections to talk shows were premature and of no legal consequence since the trial had not yet begun. In addition the accused had filed a writ petition in the Islamabad High Court against the notification of December 2013 appointing the special public prosecutor and had pleaded the same case of bias on the part of Mr. Sheikh. This petition was dismissed by the High Court on December 23, 2013 and this fact was concealed from the special court. An intra-court appeal was also filed against the high court order, which was sub judice.
Arguments on this application were concluded on March 26 and the matter was reserved for orders on Friday.