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Accused former Pakistani dictator's attorney offers himself for punishment

Publication Date : 13-02-2014

 

The proceedings of a treason trial in Pakistan took a dramatic turn on Wednesday when an attorney of retired General Pervez Musharraf offered himself for punishment in place of the former Pakistani president, even though the special court has yet to indict the former dictator for high treason.

Advocate Rana Ijaz Ahmed, who was law minister of Punjab during the Musharraf regime, asked the court to hang him or sentence him for life in prison, as envisaged in the High Treason Punishment Act 1973 for abrogating the Constitution.

“The former president is admitted to hospital. I served with him as provincial law minister and it will be an honour for me if the court may announce any sentence for me in place of General Musharraf,” he said, adding: “I am a true friend of Musharraf and want to prove that a friend in need is a friend indeed.”

In an emotional tone, Ijaz said the court did not mind him sleeping and snoring inside the courtroom for which he was thankful to the judges. “Today I am in fresh mood and have decided to experience jail lockup.”

But Justice Faisal Arab of the Sindh High Court, who heads the three-judge special court, reminded him that Musharraf had not made any confessional statement, rather the defence counsel had challenged the jurisdiction of the court.

The court then took up an application filed by Dr Khalid Ranjha seeking transfer of the high treason case to a military court.

Advocate Akram Sheikh, head of the prosecution team, argued that being an accused in the case Musharraf could neither be restored to his rank for the purpose of his court martial in terms of section 7 of the Pakistan Army Act (PAA) 1952 nor did the PAA practically permit the court martial of an army chief.

He said the accused was falsely claiming that he must be tried under the PAA since the trial under the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973 was provided in the PAA by an amendment called “Act X of 1977, Pakistan Army (Amendment) Act 1977”.

“This claim of the accused is result of misreading of the PAA 1977. Mere perusal of sections 1 and 2 of Act X of 1977 makes it crystal clear that the application seeking transfer of trial to the military court is misconceived and, therefore, liable to be dismissed,” Sheikh argued.

According to him, high treason is a constitutional offence which is punishable under the High Treason (Punishment) Act 1973 and Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976, and envisages the setting up of a special court with an exclusive jurisdiction to try the offence of high treason.

A special court set up under section 4 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act, 1976, cannot be treated as an “ordinary court of criminal justice in Pakistan” as referred to under sub-section (7) of section 8 for trial of civil offences.

 

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