In a temporary relief to former Pakistan president Pervez Musharraf the interim government in Pakistan refused to take any action against him on a treason case stating that it is beyond their mandate.
A representative of the interim government informed the Pakistan’s Supreme Court that its mandate is limited to conducting free and fair elections.
“Our mandate states that our first and foremost duty is to carry out free and fair elections and provide security to the candidates. Considering, deliberating or commencing any legal proceedings pursuant to Article 6 of the constitution will be a measure not in the mandate of the caretaker government for the following,” the government said in its reply to the Supreme Court’s query on prosecuting Musharraf on a treason case, according to an AFP report.
"As per the said practices, the caretaker government should avoid taking any controversial step and should not commit any process that is not reversible by the incoming elected government," it added.
In Pakistan, only the government can initiate treason charges, which carry death penalty.
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The Supreme Court had earlier sought the interim government’s opinion on a petition filed by lawyers demanding that the former military general face trial for treason for undermining the constitution and imposing emergency rule in the country during the period he was in power.
“Now we know ministry of law and interior ministry does not want to do anything regarding the case,” the court said when the representative of interim government explained its mandate, the Express Tribune News reported.
Earlier, in a response to the court’s query the government stated that it will abstain from giving any independent statement on the ongoing former military general’s trial.
The demand for initiating treason charges against the former military ruler turned a tricky issue for the government as any such move would have serious repercussions and set precedence for more such trail demands. It would not be a welcome situation for the army’s top brass as the prosecution for treason charges might not probably stop with Musharraf’s case, as the country has a long history of military coups and dictatorship.
Earlier, Musharraf’s lawyer had said that the serving and retired army men were not happy with the charges leveled against the former military general. The lawyer said many ex-service men condemned the situation during a meeting with him, the Daily Times reported.
He also said that if Musharraf has to face trial for treason then all those who abetted similar crime in the past and all who supported the former president’s decisions during the period should also face trial.
Such an argument, most likely will drag several politicians like Pakistan Muslim League (N) (PML-N) chief Nawaz Sharif and other army and judicial officers who were allegedly involved in similar acts in the past to face treason charges. Political observers feel that such a situation would open a Pandora’s Box and disturb the fragile democratic system in the country.
Lawyers Barred From Meeting Musharraf
Earlier, on Monday, Musharraf’s team of lawyers were barred from entering the farmhouse, which was declared a sub-jail. Musharraf's advocate, Ahmed Raza Kasuri said while addressing the media after he was refused a meeting with the ex-army chief, despite having a court order to meet Musharraf.
Kasuri said the team of lawyers was stopped at the main gate of the farmhouse by the superintendant of the jail.
“We were issued orders, by the court, to meet him and we reached the farmhouse on time but were not allowed by the superintendant posted at the main gate,” he said as reported in the Express Tribune newspaper.
“If we don’t speak to our client then how will we fight the case?” he questioned. “It is like going into a war without weapons.”
Kasuri also expressed his apprehension about the treatment meted out to the former President and demanded a thorough medical examination of Musharraf from the Combined Military Hospital, the Express Tribune added.
Meanwhile, a petitioner has challenged the notification declaring Musharraf's farmhouse as a sub-jail and has requested the court to move the former military dictator to Adiala jail.
The 69-year-old Musharraf was arrested on Friday from his farmhouse in Chak Shahzad on the outskirts of Islamabad and was later placed under judicial custody in the same premises for security reasons.
Musharraf arrived in Pakistan in March last week after ending four years of self-imposed exile and defying death threats to contest in the May general elections. The retired general is battling a slew of court cases since his arrival.
Earlier this week, Musharraf was disqualified from contesting in the general elections, effectively ending his political ambitions. He is also barred by the courts from leaving the country.
Musharraf is also battling several other cases, including conspiracy to murder opposition leader Benazir Bhutto in 2007.
The former army chief became president following a bloodless military coup in 1999 and ruled the country until August 2008. He resigned following a threat of impeachment by a newly-elected parliament and opted for an exile to escape legal charges.