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June 14, 2018

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Why Musharraf wasn’t frightened while taking over country: SC

LAHORE: A special court bench headed by Lahore High Court Chief Justice Yawar Ali Khan was formed on Wednesday in the high treason case against former president Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf.

President Mamnoon Hussain approved the formation of the two-member special court, which also includes Justice Nazar Akbar. On the other hand, the Supreme Court on Wednesday rebuked Musharraf for his continued absence and gave him the deadline to return to Pakistan by today (Thursday) afternoon.

A three-member bench, headed by Chief Justice Saqib Nisar, was hearing Musharraf's appeal against his 2013 disqualification by the Peshawar High Court. Justice Umar Atta Bandial and Justice Ijazul Ahsan were the other members on the bench.

The chief justice warned the former army strongman that if he did not show up in court by 2pm Thursday, a decision would be taken in absentia on his eligibility to contest the elections in accordance with law.

Last week, the Supreme Court had permitted Musharraf to file nomination papers for the July 25 general elections on the condition that he should appear personally before the court on June 13. The court had made clear that the fate ofMusharraf's nomination papers would be subjected to the final outcome of the instant case.

Taking advantage of the court order, Musharraf submitted nomination papers for Chitral's NA-1 through his attorney. However, the former military ruler did not appear before the court on Wednesday despite the orders that his national identity card (CNIC) and passport should be unblocked in order to facilitate his travel to Pakistan.

At the outset of the hearing, Musharraf’s counsel, Malik Qamar Afzal, told the court his client was ready to return to Pakistan to face the high treason case but he should be provided guarantee of protection. He further pointed out that the federal government had set up an atmosphere of terror by blocking his CNIC and passport.

It irked the chief justice who remarked, "Musharraf was assured he would get protection but we are not bound to issue a written assurance to him. How is it possible for a commando to be afraid?”

“What does Musharraf need protection from and what is he so afraid of?” he questioned, adding that how was it possible for a commando to be afraid and “why he wasn’t frightened when taking over the country”.

"He [Musharraf] should come to the court if he is a commando," remarked the chief justice. "Like politicians, he should not keep claiming he will return."

Chief Justice Nisar remarked, “We are giving him one more chance to come back. The scrutiny of Musharraf's nomination papers for the upcoming general elections would not be allowed if he fails to return to Pakistan and appear before the court,” he vowed.

"If Pervez Musharraf is a commando, he should show element to us by returning instead of continuously parroting like a politician that he will return," the chief justice said.

"The Supreme Court is not bound to Musharraf's terms," he remarked after the former's counsel insisted on blanket guarantees for his security. "We've already said that if Musharraf returns, he will be provided with security. We are not bound to also provide a written guarantee in this regard."

"If he doesn't return, the scrutiny of his nomination papers will not be permitted," Chief Justice Nisar warned.

Musharraf's lawyer prayed that his client’s nomination papers for the 2013 election should be restored as there was a high court verdict on the basis of which they were rejected in absentia.

"Musharraf has said that he evaded death many times but was never afraid," he remarked. "He didn't feel afraid when he was taking over this country," the top judge added.

"He is suffering from Parkinson disease, so a medical board is needed to be set up," Musharraf's lawyer said, to which the chief justice said the court would form a medical board if Musharraf returns in an air ambulance.

"If Musharraf is ailing, how will he show [us] his fist in the upcoming general elections ?" he asked, in a reference to the infamous gesture of defiance the former dictator made on May 12, 2007 while Karachi was turned into a bloody battlefield to intimidate the-then suspended chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry.

"What [other] assurance do you want from the Supreme Court: that treason proceedings will not take place against him?" the annoyed chief justice asked.

"Musharraf should face the Constitution, the law, the nation and the courts," Chief Justice Nisar asserted.

"The court will examine whether to give Musharraf permission to come and go, and whether his name should be placed on the Exit Control List (ECL) or not," he said.

The top judge said that the former military dictator should return and face all case against him, including subverting the Constitution.

He made it clear that the apex court never allowed Musharraf to go aboard. "The Supreme Court did not grant Musharraf the permission to travel abroad," he claimed. "This permission was granted by the government, which excluded his name from the ECL. The Supreme Court decision in this regard was interpreted wrongly," he said.

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