For the first time, a former chief of army staff and President of Pakistan was indicted by a special court for high treason on Monday for imposing emergency and subverting the Constitution. Clad in a brown shalwar kameez and a black blazer, General (retd) Pervez Musharraf stood in the dock and pleaded not guilty to all the charges.
Justice Faisal Arab who heads the special court asked Justice Tahira Safdar from Balochistan to read out each of the five charges to Musharraf who appeared even before the court time at 9.30 am surrounded by a wall of security. The court had issued a non-bailable arrest warrant to be executed if he failed to appear today of his own volition.
There was speculation that the former military dictator would not appear amid reports that he was admitted to the ICU last night in the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) where he has been since January 2. His entire team of lawyers led by Sharifuddin Pirzada did not appear in court and a new lawyer Dr Faroogh Naseem, also a senator from the Muttahida Qaumi Movement (MQM) told the court he would represent Musharraf from now on.
He sought an adjournment saying that all he knew about the case was what had appeared in the media, as he was engaged last night and needed time to go through a bunch of documents. He said Musharraf's mother was ill in Sharjah and sought permission for his client to leave the country to visit her. He also submitted a confidential medical report on Musharraf's condition and asked for permission for him to travel abroad to seek the medical treatment of his choice.
Justice Arab said the law was clear and under Article 6 of the Constitution the charges have to be read out to the accused. Under Article 6 of the Constitution, "Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason." It is punishable with death under the law.
The former military dictator was charged with issuing an unconstitutional and unlawful order on November, 3, 2007 at Rawalpindi as Chief of the Army Staff, called the "Proclamation of Emergency Order, 2007" which held the Constitution in abeyance. He subverted the Constitution and committed the offence of high treason punishable under section 2 of the High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973.
Secondly he was charged with issuing the Provisional Constitution Order No.1 of 2007 on November 3, as chief of army staff which empowered the President to amend the Constitution from time to time, apart from suspending Fundamental Rights enshrined in Articles 9, 10, 15, 16, 17, 19 and 25 of the Constitution. This was in blatant violation of his oath as President and member of the Armed Forces, and he unconstitutionally and unlawfully, empowered the President to amend the Constitution from time to time. Such authority was not provided in the Constitution to the Chief of Army Staff to confer the power on the President to amend the Constitution.
On the same day he issued an Oath of Office (Judges) Order, 2007 whereby an oath was introduced in the Schedule which required a judge to abide by the provisions of the Proclamation of Emergency dated November 3, 2007 and the Provisional Constitutional Order of the same date. This order resulted in the removal of numerous judges of the superior courts including the Chief Justice of Pakistan.
Then on November 20, 2007 as President of Pakistan he issued an unconstitutional and unlawful Order 5 of 2007 "Constitution (Amendment) Order, 2007" whereby Articles 175, relating to establishment and jurisdiction of courts, 186-A, power of the Supreme Court to transfer cases, 198, jurisdiction of the high court, 218, appointment of an election commission, 270B and 270C relating to elections were amended and Article 270AAA which reaffirmed and validated all Musharraf's orders and ordinances, was added to the Constitution. On December 14, 2007, his order 6 of 2007 "Constitution (Second Amendment) Order, 2007" amended the Constitution which was illegal.
The complaint filed in the special court by the secretary, interior said these criminal acts of subversion of the Constitution, amounting to high treason, were personal acts of Musharraf for the purposes of his personal aggrandizement and a consequential vendetta. At no point of time did the Parliament validate or indemnify these acts of subversion and abrogation of the Constitution.