High treason case of Musharraf now on fast track
24 October, 2013
ISLAMABAD: The government will take a decision in December on formally charging former President Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf for high treason on the basis of the evidence being collected by the Federal Investigation Agency (FIA) against him.
"A four-member FIA committee comprising Khalid Qureshi, Azam Khan, Hussain Asghar and Maqsoodul Hassan will conclude the investigation against Musharraf by the end of next month. It is basically gathering and compiling fail-safe evidence," a senior official told.
It may be a mere coincidence that by the time the FIA will wrap up its investigation, Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaque Parvez Kayani would have retired and his successor would be in place.
The official said that the evidence to be jotted down by the FIA would be reviewed by the top legal team of the government including the federal law secretary and attorney general to evaluate whether or not the high treason case, the first of its kind in Pakistan since Article 6 was inserted in the 1973 Constitution, would stand the scrutiny of the court of law.
He said that the FIA investigation was primarily focused on assembling evidence by laying hand on the written material and recording statements of all the top government figures, who closely worked with Musharraf at the time of the imposition of the state of emergency and promulgation of the Provisional Constitutional Order in November 2007.
On June 24, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced in the National Assembly that his government would put Musharraf on trial for treason charges and said the former dictator committed treason by abrogating the Constitution in 2007. Simultaneously, the attorney general told the Supreme Court that the government was committed to initiate high treason case against Musharraf and his abettors.
However, since then official efforts to arraign Musharraf at an early date were almost nonexistent. Over a week back, Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan declared that he would personally monitor the progress of investigations into six high profile cases including the one against Musharraf. After that, the FIA started the probe on a fast track.
The official said that during the investigation, all the documents relating to the November 3 strike that Musharraf signed would be put together for his trial. The probe would ascertain whether he alone or some other persons were involved in committing the act that the Supreme Court declared unconstitutional in its landmark judgment on July 31, 2009.
Under the treason law, it is the federal government only that is required to submit the high treason charges with the special court and then pursue them. It says: "no court shall take cognizance of a high treason charge except upon a complaint in writing made by a person designated by the government, which may assign this job to the attorney general or appoint a prosecutor general to represent it in such trial."
A three-member special court comprising high court judges will be set up by the federal government to try Musharraf under the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973. If convicted, he would earn capital punishment or life imprisonment.
A party aggrieved by the judgment has the right to file an appeal in the Supreme Court within thirty days. Subject to any restriction imposed by the special court, its proceedings will be open to public and would be partially published as may be approved by it.
The law says an offence of simple treason punishable under the Pakistan Penal Code (PPC) and an offence under The High Treason (Punishment) Act whether committed before or after the commencement of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act 1976 will be tried by special court.
The law was enacted to provide for the trial by the special court of offences affecting the security, integrity or sovereignty of Pakistan, including offences of high treason.The 1976 law was made in aid of High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973, which was very brief. It says it is necessary to provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of acts of abrogation or subversion of a Constitution or of high treason. A person, who is found guilty of having committed an act of abrogation or subversion of a Constitution in force in Pakistan at any time since the 23rd day of March 1956; or of high treason as defined in article 6; be punishable with death or imprisonment for life.
This act further says the federal government will forward to the special court, on behalf of the prosecution, a complaint in the form of a statement of the case to be tried by it, together with the list of accused persons, formal charges of offences alleged to have committed by each one of them and a list of witnesses intended to be presented in support of each charge.
There is a clear difference between treason and high treason.Treason is an offence under the PPC whereas a separate statute, High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973, exists for high treason after the offence was provided in the Constitution. If someone works against the state, for example, by raising a private army, he commits treason, but if he subverts the Constitution, he is guilty of high treason.