LAHORE – The head of the legal team that is prosecuting Gen Pervez Musharraf in the high treason case says he was not consulted or even spoken to during the Exit Control List proceedings in the Supreme Court or after the court gave its verdict.
In an interview to The Nation yesterday, Advocate Akram Sheikh said it was the government’s independent decision to let the former president go abroad ‘for medical treatment’.
In his opinion the government could not withdraw the case against Gen Musharraf as in that case “it itself runs the risk of violating the constitution”.
This is the first time that Mr Sheikh has talked to any newspaper after the top court’s order and the departure abroad of the former president-COAS.
Asked if he agrees with the government’s claim that it had allowed the former president to leave the country because of the Supreme Court’s verdict, the senior lawyer said “The apex court did not require the government to necessarily allow him to go abroad. Instead, he said, the court had left it to the government to take a decision on the subject.”
Answering a question, Mr Sheikh said the government has not issued any fresh instructions to the prosecution team, not even to slow down the process. The proceedings can continue even in the absence of Gen Musharraf as the prosecution has already completed its evidence. The departure of the accused for treatment doesn’t have any imperative consequence of any delay on the trial, he observed.
The trial proceedings are scheduled to resume on March 31.
Responding to a question as to what would happen on March 31, Mr Sheikh said the former president was represented by a counsel and the court could proceed to record Gen Musharraf’s statement under Section 342 CrPC as a mandatory requirement of the Special Amendment Act. He said the court could even record the statement of any defence witness sought to be produced by the former president.
According to him, the special court has already summoned Gen Musharraf and it was within the knowledge of the high-treason charge accused. The former president, he pointed out, had already given an undertaking to the court that he would appear before it as and when required. And under the last court order, he was supposed to show up on March 31.
“Removal of his name from the ECL after the dismissal of the federation’s appeal did not permit him to leave the country without permission of the special court as he and already been summoned for March 31”.
Mr Sheikh said it was for Gen Musharraf to seek permission from the special court before leaving the country.
Asked what would happen if Gen Musharraf did not appear, Mr Sheikh said the court could confiscate his surety and issue process for his appearance. Also, he said the court could even record Gen Musharraf’s statement through his counsel or any other mode.
He said he did not agree with the suggestion that the former president, who commanded the army for such a long time, would deliberately stay away from the court.
He said it was important to understand that the prosecution had completed its evidence in September 2014 and there remains nothing to be done by it, except cross-examining the defence witnesses. “Staying away from the court will mean staying away from defence,” the head of the prosecution team said, highlighting why it was in Gen Musharraf’s own interest to appear before the court and record his statement.
“I have every hope that he will do everything possible to defend himself.”
When his attention was drawn to Gen Musharraf’s lawyer Ahmed Raza Kasuri that cases against the former president would ultimately be wrapped up, Advocate Akram Sheikh said a high treason case, after its establishment by the prosecution, “cannot be wrapped up even if the government desires”.
Abrogation of the Constitution, he said, was a very serious charge and, unlike other cases which can be taken back, the government cannot withdraw it as in that case it itself runs the risk of violating the constitution.
Published in The Nation newspaper on 28-Mar-2016