By Sajjad Hussain :
Musharraf’s sentencing is a highly significant moment in Pakistan where the powerful military has ruled the country for nearly half of its 72-year history Pak Army condemns the judgement
PAKISTAN’S former dictator General Pervez Musharraf was on Tuesday sentenced to death in absentia in the high treason case for subverting the Constitution in 2007, drawing a sharp reaction from the powerful military which has ruled the coup-prone country for nearly half its 72-year history. A three-member bench of the special court, headed by Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth, pronounced the verdict in the landmark case launched in 2013 against the former Pakistan Army chief by the previous Government of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
The court found the ailing 76-year-old retired General, now living in Dubai in self-exile, guilty of high treason by abrogating the Constitution and imposing extra-constitutional emergency in Pakistan in November 2007. By handing him the death sentence, the verdict made him the first military ruler to receive the capital punishment in Pakistan’s history. He also imprisoned several judges and issued provisional constitutional orders to safeguard his dictatorship. He was convicted in 2014 but later went to Dubai in 2016, stalling the progress in the high-profile case. Musharraf is the first military ruler convicted for subverting the Constitution. Though he was not the first General to do so.
Three Pakistan Army chiefs including Gen Ayub Khan, Gen Yahya Khan and Gen Zia-ul-Haq also abrogated the Constitution but never faced any court. Musharraf’s sentencing is a highly significant moment in Pakistan where the powerful military has ruled the country for nearly half of its 72-year history. His sentencing provoked the Pakistan Army to swiftly condemn the judgement. “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,” Army spokesman Maj Gen Asif Ghafoor said in a statement.
“The due legal process seems to have been ignored including constitution of special court, denial of fundamental right of self-defence, undertaking individual specific proceedings and concluding the case in haste,” he said. “Armed Forces of Pakistan expect that justice will be dispensed in line with Constitution of Islamic Republic of Pakistan,” Ghafoor said. Earlier, Justice Seth, in a short verdict, announced that the court found that Musharraf was guilty of violating Article 6 of the Constitution that says that suspending the Constitution was an act of treason.
“Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or hold in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance the Constitution by use of force or show force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason,” states Article 6. According to High Treason (Punishment) Act, 1973, the punishment for high treason is death or lifetime imprisonment. The tribunal issued 2-1 split verdict in the case which lingered for about six years. It said that the detailed judgement would be issued in two days. Musharraf can file appeal against the judgement within 30 days. But he would have to return to Pakistan for it unless allowed by the higher court.