A Special Court in Pakistan on Tuesday awarded death sentence to the former military dictator, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, for committing high treason.
The former President, who seized power through a military coup in 1999, was found guilty of high treason as per Article 6 of the Constitution for imposing emergency on November 3, 2007, the court said.
According to Article 6, “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.” The punishment for high treason is death penalty or life imprisonment.
Mr. Musharraf, who’s currently in Dubai, the United Arab Emirates, issued a video statement, saying he is “being victimised”.
“As far as this [treason] case is concerned, this is absolutely baseless. I have served my country for 10 years. I have fought for my country. This is the case in which I have not been heard and I have been victimised,” he said.
The military, in its response, backed Mr. Musharraf and slammed the trial. The Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the armed forces, said in a statement that the decision by the special court “has been received with a lot of pain and anguish by the rank and file of the Pakistan Armed Forces”.
It further said that an “ex-Army Chief, Chairman of Joint Chief of Staff Committee and President of Pakistan, who has served the country for over 40 years, fought wars for the defence of the country can surely never be a traitor”.
The statement said due legal process “seems to have been ignored” and the fundamental right of self defence was denied in the treason trial. And the case was concluded in haste, it added. “[The] Armed Forces of Pakistan expect that justice will be dispensed in line with the Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan.”
Minister for Science and Technology Fawad Chaudhry told The Hindu that in his view, the verdict is unfortunate. “It has nothing to with the Constitution or justice but is a result of the tug of war between the institutions.”
Mr. Chaudhry started his political career from Mr. Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League and was his media spokesperson before he quit the party. Mr. Chaudhry said that for many days he has called for restraint but no one is paying heed to his submissions. “This verdict is divisive and will affect the balance of the political system.”
Pervaiz Rashid, a senior leader of the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), told The Hindu the party initiated Mr. Musharraf’s trial based on a principle. “A principle that has not been upheld since we got independence in 1947. By not upholding this principle, the spirit of our independence was tarnished.”
Today, this principle has been established, said Mr. Rashid. “It will not be possible after today’s verdict that anyone can climb the walls of the Prime Minister House, capture the PTV [state TV] building and start broadcasting their own announcements that challenge and curb the freedoms of the Pakistani nation. The wall that this verdict has erected is stronger and higher than the walls of the PM House. This verdict has saved our future generations from dictatorships. Whatever we suffered will not be repeated again.”
Mr. Musharraf was booked for treason by the PML-N government of Nawaz Sharif in 2013. The former dictator was indicted on March 31, 2014, and the entire evidence against him was tabled before the special court in September the same year.
Azam Nazeer Tarar, a senior advocate at the Supreme Court and member of the Pakistan Bar Council (PBC), said this is “a landmark judgement”. “This judgement recognises the supremacy of the Constitution and rule of law in Pakistan.”
Pakistan has seen repeated incidents of constitutional breaches in the past. “This court decision has practically stopped further interventions by anyone through extra-constitutional measures. If the Constitution cannot be protected, we cannot run the affairs of the state in an honourable manner,” Mr. Tarar said. While judicial inaction or judicial restraint had paved the way for repeated martial laws in the past, the Musharraf high treason verdict “would stand as a block for future endeavours”, he added.