ISLAMABAD: The special court trying former military ruler Pervez Musharraf for treason on Friday refused to allow him to go abroad for medical treatment, saying it had no authority to lift his travel ban.
The 70-year-old is facing treason charges, which can carry the death penalty, over his imposition of a state of emergency in 2007 while he was president. Musharraf has been in a military hospital since falling ill with heart trouble while travelling to the special treason tribunal on January 2 and his lawyers had argued he needed specialist treatment abroad. There had been speculation that he would be allowed to go on medical grounds as part of a deal to head off a clash between the government and military, which is seen as reluctant to have its former chief tried by civilians.
Musharraf’s name is on the Exit Control List, meaning he cannot leave Pakistan. After hearing medical reports from the Armed Forces Institute of Cardiology, where Musharraf is being treated, the court said it was not in its power to let him leave. “It is not in the jurisdiction of this court to allow him to go abroad for treatment, because his name is on the Exit Control List,” the order read by a court official said.
Musharraf was originally summoned to come before the court on December 24 but has yet to put in an appearance, due to security scares and ill health. On Friday the court directed him to appear at the next hearing, on February 7, and ordered him to pay bail of 2.5 million rupees or face arrest. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was ousted from power by Musharraf in his 1999 coup, and his lawyers have said the treason case is an attempt to settle old scores through the courts. Musharraf’s spokesman Raza Bokhari condemned Friday’s decision.
“In ignoring the expert medical report of a distinguished military hospital, the special treason court has not only shown inhumanity and insensitivity towards General Musharraf, but also has demonstrated unprecedented disregard of the medical profession, principles of basic fundamental rights and preservation of life,” he said in a statement. Despite persistent rumours that a backroom deal would be struck to spirit Musharraf away, the former commando has previously insisted he wants to stay and fight the charges against him.
In addition to treason, Musharraf faces an array of other criminal charges dating back to his 1999-2008 rule, including for the murder of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto in December 2007. He is the first ex-army head to be put on trial. Prime Minister Nawaz’s government has repeatedly said it would not let Musharraf leave Pakistan before facing the courts. Some commentators have complained the Musharraf legal drama is an unnecessary distraction at a time when the country is grappling with resurgent homegrown Taliban militancy.
On Thursday a larger bench of the Supreme Court rejected Musharraf’s two review petitions, through which he sought review of July 31, 2009 verdict of the apex court, terming them “time-barred”. The 14-member larger bench of the Supreme Court, headed by Chief Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jillani, said the plea was not filed in the stipulated time and that the review petitions did not fulfil the criteria of merit, thus were not maintainable. In its brief decision, the court said that Musharraf’s applications are time-barred and did comply with merit. The court said that its July 31, 2009 decision provided grounds for the NRO case and high treason case against the former military ruler.
Musharraf had filed the petitions last month, seeking review of the July 31, 2009 Supreme Court verdict in which the court had denounced the successive military takeovers of the last four decades and declared Musharraf’s 2007 emergency unconstitutional. Musharraf had challenged the verdict after four years. Disposing of Pervez Musharraf’s appeal against registrar office on January 8, Supreme Court (SC) judge Justice Anwar Zaheer Jamali had referred the matter about maintainability of Musharraf’s review petition against July 31, 2009 verdict to a larger bench for deciding it. Justice Jamali heard Musharraf’s appeal in his chamber against the SC registrar office order for not entertaining his review petition, seeking review of the landmark July 31, 2009 verdict about imposition of emergency.
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