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14 January 2020, Tuesday

Lahore High Court overturns death sentence of General Musharraf

Calls the Special Court unconstitutional

PR Daily Brief | D. Suba Chandran

14 January 2020, Tuesday

What happened?
A three-member bench of the Lahore High Court that was hearing the petition of Gen Musharraf against the death sentence ruled that the Special Court that gave the verdict was unconstitutional, and hence the sentence also not under the constitutional law.

The bench also ruled that the treason case against Pervez Musharraf not pursued in accordance with the law. 

The full order is expected shortly; according to the Lahore High Court ruling, it is clear that the death sentence pronounced by the Special Court is null and void.

What is the background?
After coming to power in 1999 through a coup, Gen Pervez Musharraf, in November 2007 imposed emergency and suspended the constitution. Later in November 2007, he resigned as the Chief of Army Staff and became the President of Pakistan. In December 2007, President through a decree revoked the emergency.

In August 2008, facing severe political opposition and fearing an impeachment Musharraf resigned. In July 2009, the Supreme Court, headed by Justice Iftikhar Chaudhry declared the emergency imposed by Musharraf as illegal and unconstitutional. 

In November 2013, the PML-N government headed by Nawaz Sharif filed five charges against Musharraf. In December 2013, the Special Court convened for the same, under Article 6 of the Constitution, summoned Musharraf to appear in front of it, starting a lengthy proceeding. According to article 6 of the constitution, “any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.”

In March 2016, Musharraf left for Dubai on medical grounds, and the Special Court declared him as an absconder in May 2016. Despite multiple notices, Musharraf failed to appear in front of the Special Court. In April 2019, a Supreme Court order of the then Chief Justice Asif Khosa stated: “If the accused avails defence under Section 342, then he should appear before the special court, otherwise he will lose the right of defence.” (Dawn, 2 April 2019)

In December 2019, the Special Court pronounced its verdict on the case. Under Article 6 of the Constitution, the Special Court found Musharraf guilty of treason and handed over the death sentence. 

The Special Court’s decision was highly debated within Pakistan. While a section welcomed and interpreted the decision as a deterrence against any future interference against the democratic process, the Establishment and the government was unhappy about the verdict. 

On 13 January 2020, the Lahore High Court overturned the decision of Special Court. According to the verdict, the formation of the Special Court was unconstitutional, and the sentence could not be applied “ex post facto.”

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