The hearing in a high treason case against Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf has been adjourned for a month by a special court after the government failed to appoint a defence counsel to represent the Pakistan’s former military dictator, according to a media report on Wednesday.
The three-judge bench headed by Justice Tahira Safdar on Tuesday adjourned the hearing for a month on the request of Acting Law and Justice Secretary Arshad Farooq Fahim who said his ministry has shortlisted the names of six lawyers “but they were either unwilling to represent Musharraf or need time to study the case”, the Dawn reported.
On June 12, the court had rejected Musharraf’s plea for the adjournment of the hearing on medical grounds and decided to conclude the trial even in his absence. The court also cancelled the 75-year-old former president’s right of defence due to his repeated non-appearance before the court.
The court had also barred Musharraf’s lawyer Salman Safdar from arguing on his behalf and directed the law ministry to appoint a defence lawyer for him.
The ministry had on June 27 shortlisted six lawyers – Syed Ali Zafar, Raja Amir Abbas, Shah Khawar, Ishfaq Naqvi, Tahir Malik and Riaz Hanif Rahi – to represent the former president in the case, the report said.
The previous Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) government had filed the treason case against the ex-Army chief in 2013 over the imposition of extra-constitutional emergency in November 2007, which led to the confinement of a number of superior court judges in their houses and sacking of over 100 judges.
The trial has not seen much progress since Musharraf left for Dubai in March 2016 after his name was removed from the Exit Control List.
He has not returned since, and is said to be suffering from Amyloidosis, a rare condition for which he has been admitted to a hospital.
The special court has declared him a proclaimed offender and ordered the confiscation of his property owing to his no-show. The case has been virtually stalled as Musharraf’s presence is important to record his statement.
The Supreme Court in a judgment on April 1 said that Musharraf can come back to record statement by May 2, otherwise the tribunal was free to conclude hearing even in his absence.
On May 2, Musharraf requested the court to delay proceedings until end of holy month of fasting. So the court adjourned and set June 12 for hearing and his appearance.
But he failed to turn up and his lawyer requested the tribunal to delay the proceedings until improvement in health of Musharraf so that he could come back.
The bench, headed by Justice Tahira, rejected the plea with observation that proceedings could no longer be halted due to the accused’s illness.
The tribunal said the former ruler was fugitive and has lost the right to engage a counsel unless he surrenders.
Musharraf ruled the country from 1999 to 2008. A conviction for high treason carries the death penalty or life imprisonment.