Pakistan's Supreme Court on Monday directed the government to ensure that Pervez Musharraf does not leave the country as it began hearing several petitions seeking the former military ruler's trial for treason for subverting the constitution and declaring emergency in 2007.
A two-judge bench led by Justice Jawad S Khwaja ordered the interior secretary to take steps to prevent Musharraf from travelling abroad. The bench issued the directive after hearing initial arguments on five petitions asking the apex court to direct the government to prosecute Musharraf under the High Treason (Punishment) Act of 1973. The bench also issued notices to the government, Musharraf and other respondents to respond to the petitions and adjourned the case till Tuesday.
The lawyers for the argued that the former military strongman had violated the Constitution by declaring an emergency in 2007 and should be put on trial for treason. They pointed out that the senate or upper house of parliament had passed a resolution in January 2012 that said Musharraf should be arrested on his return but the government had not acted on it.
The lawyers further argued that the government had failed to act on an earlier Supreme Court order that directed authorities take action against Musharraf for violating the Constitution.
Talking to reporters after the hearing, the lawyers for the petitioners said Musharraf should not be accorded "VIP protocol" as he is an accused in several cases. They said the case against the former president in the Supreme Court would ensure that no one subverts the Constitution in the future. They said the generals and other persons who backed Musharraf should also be held accountable.
Hours before the hearing began on Monday morning, Pakistan Chief Justice Iftikhar Chaudhary withdrew himself from the three-judge bench that was formed last week to take up the petitions seeking Musharraf’s trial for treason. Chaudhry withdrew from the bench after questions were raised about his impartiality in view of the fact that he was one of the dozens of judges deposed by Musharraf during the 2007 emergency.
The main petition by Taufiq Asif, a senior leader of the Rawalpindi high court bar association, seeks Musharraf’s trial for treason for imposing emergency.
On Friday, another petition was filed by Ahsanuddin Sheikh, a former president of the Lahore high court bar association. Yet another petition against Musharraf was filed by Iqbal Haider.
The petitions named Musharraf and the government as respondents. The petitioners also asked the apex court to direct the government to take Musharraf into custody.
Musharraf returned to Pakistan last month after nearly four years of self-exile to lead his All Pakistan Muslim League party in the May 11 general election. His nomination papers for three parliamentary seats in Karachi, Kasur and Islamabad have been rejected. However, his papers for another seat in Chitral were accepted.