Abu Dhabi, UAEThursday 22 October 2020

Army condemns order to 'drag Musharraf's body through the streets'

In the full ruling, judges ordered the former military head to face punishment dead or alive

Supporters of Pakistan Nishan-e-Haider Difa Council protest against sentencing former president Pervez Musharraf in Peshawar, Pakistan. EPA  
Supporters of Pakistan Nishan-e-Haider Difa Council protest against sentencing former president Pervez Musharraf in Peshawar, Pakistan. EPA  

The body of Pakistan's former military dictator must be dragged through the streets and displayed in public if he dies before he can be hanged for treason, a court has demanded.

The grisly decree was included in the full judgment against Gen Pervez Musharraf, who was sentenced to death earlier this week for suspending the constitution during his rule in 2007.

Three judges sitting in a special court also accused senior generals of being complicit in Musharraf's treason, in an incendiary ruling likely to intensify tensions with Pakistan’s powerful military.

Sentencing a former army chief to death in a country where the armed forces have mounted a series of coups and are considered largely beyond prosecution has been seen as an unprecedented judicial assault on military powers.

The ruling is expected to provoke a clash between the military and judiciary.

A spokesman for the military's information wing quickly denounced the language of the ruling, saying it “transgresses humanity, religion, culture and any other values”.

Musharraf, now aged 76, fled Pakistan in 2016 and is currently in a Dubai hospital. The court's sentence is unlikely to ever be carried out, analysts said, but it remains a rare legal challenge to military authority.

In the 167-page ruling setting out the court's guilty verdict, it concluded that “the convict be hanged by his neck until he dies on each count as per charge.”

But the ruling continued: "We direct the law enforcement agencies to strive their level best to apprehend the fugitive/convict and to ensure that the punishment is inflicted as per law and if found dead, his corpse be dragged to the D-Chowk [a junction near parliament], Islamabad, Pakistan and be hanged for 03 days.”

The judges also said that other senior officers were complicit and those who helped Musharraf flee should also face justice.

Musharraf, then chief of army staff, toppled the civilian government to seize power in 1999 and then in 2007 suspended the constitution as he imposed a state of emergency in the face of rising protest.

The ruling questioned why the military had not tried to prevent Musharraf's crimes.

“The then Corps Commanders Committee in addition to all other uniformed officers who were guarding him each and every time, with boots on, are equally and fully involved in the act and deeds of the accused person,” the judgement said.

Musharraf now has 30 days to appeal. In a video statement released late on Wednesday, he said he was the victim of a personal vendetta and he has complained he was denied the chance to mount a full legal defence.

The verdict has been welcomed by opposition parties who accuse the military of siding with Imran Khan's government and using its clout to bring him to power in a rigged election last year.

The military denies meddling in politics.

The government appeared to side with Musharraf, however, saying it had identified flaws in the ruling.

Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan said the government's legal team had found "gaps and weaknesses" in the ruling after lawyers briefed Prime Minister Imran Khan about the case late on Wednesday.

Law Minister Farogh Naseem said the government was seeking to remove the leader of the three-judge panel. The judge, Waqar Ahmad Seth, had violated judicial conduct, he said.

"Our plea is that such a judge has got no authority to be a judge of any high court or the supreme court," he said. "He is unfit."

The Attorney General Anwar Mansoor Khan has also appeared to side with the military, and said Musharraf was not given a fair trial.

Tensions between the military and judiciary were already high after the supreme court last month briefly blocked the current chief of army staff, Gen Qamar Javed Bajwa, from extending his term.

The supreme court eventually agreed to a six-month interim extension until the Parliament can legislate on whether military chiefs can be allowed to stay in post.

Updated: December 20, 2019 09:41 AM

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