Politics

SC Upholds Musharraf’s Death Sentence, Quashes LHC Verdict

The Supreme Court of Pakistan on Wednesday dismissed the appeal of former military dictator Pervez Musharraf against his death sentence in the high treason case and declared the Lahore High Court’s verdict that had suspended the sentence as “null and void”.

A four-member bench of the apex court, headed by Chief Justice Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justice Mansoor Ali Shah, Justice Aminuddin Khan and Justice Athar Minallah, announced the short order after reserving it earlier in the day.

The bench upheld the verdict of the special court that had convicted Musharraf of high treason under Article 6 of the Constitution for imposing a state of emergency and suspending the constitution in November 2007.

The special court, comprising three high court judges, had handed down the death penalty to Musharraf on December 17, 2019, after a six-year trial that was marred by delays, adjournments and legal challenges.

Musharraf, who had seized power in a coup in 1999 and ruled the country till 2008, had challenged the formation and jurisdiction of the special court, as well as the legality of the prosecution team and the charges against him.

He had also filed an appeal against the death sentence in the Supreme Court, which was taken up by the bench on Wednesday.

However, the bench rejected Musharraf’s appeal, noting that his heirs had not pursued the case despite being served multiple notices. Musharraf’s lawyer, Salman Safdar, told the court that he had tried to contact the former president’s family after the hearing was fixed, but they did not respond to him.

Musharraf, who had left Pakistan in 2016 on medical grounds, died in Dubai on February 5, 2023, after suffering from a rare disease called amyloidosis.

The bench also declared the Lahore High Court’s judgment of January 13, 2020, that had set aside the special court’s verdict and stopped its implementation, as “illegal and without lawful authority”.

The Lahore High Court had ruled that the special court was not constituted in accordance with the law and that Musharraf was denied the right to a fair trial.

The Supreme Court, however, observed that the Lahore High Court had exceeded its jurisdiction and interfered in a matter that was pending before the apex court.

The bench also remarked that the Lahore High Court had ignored the fact that Musharraf had abrogated the constitution twice, first in 1999 when he toppled the elected government of Nawaz Sharif, and then in 2007 when he imposed the emergency.

The bench said that all those who had validated Musharraf’s actions, including the judges, should be held accountable and tried for high treason.

The bench further said that the nation should learn from its history and admit that what was done in the past was wrong.

The bench said that the primary aspect was the recognition of the wrongdoing and the acceptance of the supremacy of the constitution and the rule of law.

The bench said that one should speak the truth and the truth was that the judges who had endorsed the martial law should also be tried and given a fair trial.

The bench concluded by saying that the special court’s verdict was in accordance with the law and the constitution and that Musharraf’s appeal was devoid of merit.

The high treason case against Musharraf was initiated by the PML-N government in 2013, when Nawaz Sharif returned to power for the third time.

The case was seen as a historic and unprecedented move, as no military ruler in Pakistan’s history had ever faced such legal consequences for their actions.

The case was also seen as a test of the civil-military relations in the country, as the powerful military had expressed its displeasure over the trial and the sentence of its former chief.

The case had also sparked a legal and political controversy, as Musharraf’s supporters and opponents had clashed over the legitimacy and morality of the verdict.

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