Saturday, January 11, 2014

Daily Times Editorial Jan 12, 2014

The Musharraf saga The special court trying Pervez Musharraf in the treason trial has ruled that the Code of Criminal Procedure (CrPC) applies in the case and the court can issue arrest warrants of the accused for non-appearance before it. The court also rejected the defence counsel’s plea to suspend its earlier order of January 9 ordering Musharraf to appear personally on January 16. It may be recalled that Musharraf was rushed to the Armed Forces Institute hospital while on his way for a court appearance the other day. He has remained in the hospital since. The court ruled on his medical reports that it did not appear the former COAS and president had suffered a heart attack or his illnesses were so serious as to prevent him appearing as ordered. The defence, media reports speculate, will probably rely on another medical report to avoid Musharraf’s appearance on January 16, when he is expected to be indicted. In court, the defence has reiterated that it has challenged the formation of the special court and the procedure adopted for the purpose as not in conformity with the constitution, especially Article 90. The defence team would, as is the judicial norm, want the court to rule on this issue before proceeding with the case in order to lay to rest the fundamental question of whether the special court is constitutionally created and therefore has jurisdiction to try the case. The defence also has an application pending before the court for transfer of the case to a military court as the only judicial forum authorised the try a former COAS whose imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007, the charge on which he is sought to be charged with treason, was imposed while Musharraf was still in uniform. The prosecution on the other hand has rejected the arguments of defence counsel by stating that Article 90 (2) permits the prime minister to act independently or with and through the federal cabinet, hence the objection of the defence to the procedure adopted for formation of the special court does not hold water. On the defence plea that the June 9 order of the special court for Musharraf’s appearance on January 16 be reviewed, the prosecution argues the court does not have the power to review or suspend any of its earlier orders and that the only remedy against the court’s order lies in an appeal to the Supreme Court. Media coverage of the trial was also raised in the court, with the three-member bench expressing annoyance at some reporting that ran against the grain of the court’s orders in this regard. Both defence and prosecution counsel eventually agreed before the court not to approach or speak to the media as the trial was sub judice. The treason trial, about which there is no shortage of critics ranging from those who think it should never have been proceeded with in the first place to those who see it as ‘partial’ (the 1999 coup having been ignored), is rapidly descending into a drama or even a circus. Substantial scepticism existed from the very beginning of the judicial process that it was inconceivable a former COAS could be found guilty of treason and punished, given the clout the armed forces traditionally enjoy. Now, as the days go by and the trial process unfolds, the sceptics and critics, far from being satisfied and silenced, seem to be becoming more vociferous than ever. On balance, perhaps it would not be too far from the truth to state that the judiciary seems determined to proceed with the case, the government, seemingly embarrassed at the possible risks to itself, has been sheltering behind the shield of the judiciary, the military, largely silent on the issue, is thought by some to be working quietly behind the scenes to get Musharraf off the hook, and rumours abound (including in the US media) that Musharraf will leave the country by the end of the month. That may prove a relief to a great many, disappointment to some, but to most the end of a distraction that is keeping the country from focusing on more urgent business.

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