General Pervez Musharraf can be arrested in Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC.) trial, say experts
Islamabad – The special court’s decision that the Criminal Procedure Code (CrPC.) will apply to its proceedings in the high treason trial against retired General Pervez Musharraf makes it clear that the tribunal has the powers to order his arrest. “This means that the high treason trial has been treated like other criminal cases that are heard by courts all over Pakistan every day,” a noted legal expert explained to The News. “Thus it has not been taken as something special.”
He said it was a general principle that the CrPC. was applicable to the trial of criminal cases while the Civil Procedure Code (CPC) served this purpose in civil suits. One of Musharraf’s lawyer Anwar Mansoor disputed the special court’s power to issue arrest warrants for the former general, pleading that the CrPC. can’t be invoked in his trial. However, during his arguments Justice Faisal Arab, who heads the tribunal, kept pointing out that the court has the powers to order arrest.
The judge also stated that the offence of high treason was non-bailable and Musharraf can be apprehended by a police officer.As per the procedure prescribed by the CrPC, the expert said, Musharraf will be charge-sheeted and asked whether he pleads guilty or not. If he accepts his guilt, the court can instantly sentence and convict him, and if he pleads not guilty, his formal trial will open and he will be required to present oral and documentary evidence in support of his stand. The prosecution will also do the same.
According to the lawyer, there are different stages enumerated in the CrPC, which are to be followed in the trial. The accused has the right to speak on oath but he will be open to cross-examination by the prosecution.
In view of the importance and profile of the case, Musharraf may avail of this right to take on those who have framed the charge and those who whom he claims to be his associates and consultees in the imposition of emergency on November 3, 2007. Another stage is that the charge-sheet will be read out to Musharraf.
The former general has not yet got anything satisfactory from the special court, constituted to try him on high treason charges, to rejoice as all of his pleas, made through different ways, have been found contrary to law and prescribed procedure except frequent grant of exemption from appearance.
But at the same time, the special tribunal has shown no hurry or haste in its hearings and is proceeding on the complaint in a cool-headed fashion. It granted sufficient and reasonable time to the defence where it was necessary. So far, it has accorded exemption from appearance for at least three times that Musharraf wants to get permanently due to his ill-health. Every time it allowed him not to appear, it made clear that it will issue an appropriate order next time to ensure his presence.
For example, although none of the “nine diseases” listed by the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology (AFIC) Musharraf is suffering from is too grave deserving bed rest, the court provided him a full week to recuperate in the medical facility or at home, and then come before it on January 16.
But his lawyers pleaded for suspension of this order. However, the tribunal refused, and upheld it, directing him to produce himself before it on the given date. This order may be challenged in the Supreme Court.
Since word go, the concerted effort of Musharraf, his legal team and his supporters and sympathisers has been that he doesn’t appear before the court come what may. The only objective they want to achieve is that he is not indicted for high treason, which is to be done in his presence as the charge-sheet will be read out to him. When on January 2, he was driving to the court from his Islamabad farmhouse after the repeated court orders; he was rushed to the AFIC after he complained of chest pain.
The three judges forming the special tribunal, Justice Faisal Arab, Justice Muhammad Yawar Ali and Justice Syeda Tahira Safdar, who have been assigned the gigantic and unique but historic task of trying a former military dictator, have so far mostly confined to hearing the arguments of the two sides and refrained from passing any high-sounding remarks on the case. Even when tempers ran high in the courtroom due to heated exchanges between Musharraf’s counsels and special prosecutor Akram Sheikh, the judges kept cool and regulated the proceedings as required by the law.
While they are not acting in haste, they are not wasting time by giving unnecessary long adjournments, as sought by the defence team.Except Saturdays and Sundays, it has held day-to-day hearings, which shows that they want to dispose the case without any inordinate delay.