In another development that highlights the supremacy of Pakistan’s powerful military establishment, the Lahore High Court on Monday declared the death penalty verdict against former Pakistani Army Chief and President Pervez Musharraf as “null and void”. It also ruled that the Constitution of the Special Court which pronounced the original judgment was “unlawful”.
On December 17, Musharraf was sentenced to death after being held guilty of high treason for abrogating the Constitution and imposing an extra-constitutional emergency. Thereafter, Musharraf’s counsel moved the Lahore HC seeking not only the quashing of his death sentence but also the formation of the special court.
Musharraf’s case was given a big push after his arch-nemesis Nawaz Sharif took oath as Pakistan’s Prime Minister for the third time in 2013. The former military dictator had assumed power in a bloodless coup in 1999 after ousting Nawaz Sharif. This case however pertained specifically to the emergency imposed by Musharraf in 2007.
Within a few hours of the special court’s verdict, the Pakistani Army backed him completely and declared that he could never be a traitor. Interestingly, the Army too cast aspersions over the constitution of the special court. Throwing its weight behind Musharraf, the Imran Khan-led government decided to move the Supreme Judicial Council to seek the removal of Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth for his alleged controversial remarks in the judgment.
The Army statement read, "An ex-Army Chief, Chairman 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.”
It added, "The due legal process seems to have been ignored including constitution of special court, denial of the fundamental right of self-defence, undertaking individual-specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste. Armed Forces of Pakistan expect that justice will be dispensed in line with Constitution of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan."
While hearing Musharraf's plea, the Lahore HC had summoned senior lawyer Ali Zafar to testify as a legal expert. According to Zafar, both the complaint against Musharraf and the formation of the special court was not according to the law. For instance, he claimed that the Pakistani cabinet had not approved the complaint, which was a necessity as it referred to Article 6 of the Constitution of Pakistan.