Court to explore options to try Musharraf in absentia in high treason case

A special court on Wednesday resumed hearing the high treason case against retired Gen Pervez Musharraf and sought assistance in proceeding with the case if the former military dictator continues to abscond.

Secretary Interior Yousaf Naseem Khokhar, present for the hearing, told the two-member bench led by Justice Yawer Ali that a letter had been written to Interpol for Musharraf's repatriation, but Interpol officials had refused to issue a red warrant, saying that Interpol does not deal in political cases.

"How can the court decide the case if Musharraf avoids turning up on the next hearing?" Justice Ali asked.

He asked authorities to inform the court on the next hearing if they can record Musharraf's statement via video conference or if the case can be pursued without recording a statement.

The court also directed the interior secretary to submit a copy of the letter it wrote to Interpol.

The next hearing of the case has been deferred to Sep 10.

Prosecutor recuses himself

During the hearing, prosecutor Akram Shaikh submitted an application to the court saying he wanted to detach himself from the case.

He also contended that the new government should decide whether to continue with the case or not.

He added that Musharraf's counsel had become a part of the government and the interior ministry would have to decide the future course of action pertinent to the case.

The court granted his plea. Shaikh had been pursuing the case for the last five years.

He had in the past repeatedly requested the special court to conclude the trial and issue a verdict in the absence of Gen Musharraf.

Sheikh had submitted his resignation to the interior ministry after the election, saying: "If the PTI wants to continue with the case, it can engage a lawyer to proceed with the case."

He had ruled out the possibility that the government would withdraw the treason case against Gen Musharraf. “It would be tantamount to aiding and abetting an accused person,” he had said.

Background

The special court had indicted Gen Musharraf for high treason in March 2014. The prosecution had laid its evidence before the court by September the same year.

However, the special court could not proceed against the former dictator as the IHC had issued a stay order and Gen Musharraf subsequently left the country after the superior courts removed his name from the Exit Control List.

The special court had later declared the accused a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his properties. However, its order could not be executed due to the matter pending litigation in various courts.

The special court had earlier this year resumed its proceedings in the treason case and ordered that Gen Musharraf’s computerised national identity card (CNIC) and passport be blocked. The outgoing PML-N government had in May executed the court order and blocked the absconder's CNIC and passport.



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