In this Monday, April 15, 2013 file photo, Pakistan's former President and military ruler Pervez Musharraf addresses his party supporters at his house in Islamabad, Pakistan. Image Credit: AP/file

Dubai: Former Pakistan Army Chief and ex-president General (retired) Pervez Musharraf has got relief on Monday by the Lahore High Court in the death penalty verdict against him.

The Lahore High Court has declared the formation of a special court — which heard the treason case against Musharraf and handed him a death sentence after finding him guilty of treason — as ‘unconstitutional’. It means that the special court’s death verdict to hang Musharraf by neck will not be implemented and the case will be heard all over again if it is pursued at all.

Not guilty of treason

The court also ruled that the amended Article 6 of the Constitution, under which Musharraf had been found guilty, could not be applied in the case ‘ex post facto’ (retrospectively).

Article 6 of the Constitution was modified through the 18th Amendment in 2010, while the case against Musharraf concerned events that happened before that, Geo TV reported.

The decision came in response to a petition filed by Musharraf challenging the formation of the special court for the high treason case against him.

Musharraf was handed the death penalty in December last year after being found guilty on five counts in a 2-1 majority verdict. Subsequently, Musharraf had approached the Lahore High Court with three petitions, filed earlier this month.

Musharraf's petition

The former president had challenged not only the conviction but also the formation of the special court that handed him the death penalty for high treason, as well as the complaint filed against him by the government of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif that resulted in the trial, Dawn news reported.

However, the court had only admitted the petitions challenging the formation of the special court and the complaint registered against the former president. Subsequently, hearings into the case had proceeded before a three-member bench of the high court in the provincial capital.

The bench, comprising Justice Syed Mazaher Ali Akbar Naqvi, Justice Muhammad Ameer Bhatti and Justice Chaudhry Masood Jahangi, announced the verdict.

Additional Attorney-General Ishtiaq Ahmad Khan told the court that the constitution of a special court to try Musharraf under Article 6 of the Constitution was not part of the agenda of federal cabinet meetings of the government of former premier Nawaz Sharif.

Personal vendetta

Special court 'unlawful'

“The special court was constituted without the formal approval of the cabinet,” Khan said in court. Khan also maintained that the charges filed against the former president were flimsy since, under the emergency powers of the executive, fundamental rights could be suspended.

Last week, a legal expert had told the court that the constitution of a special court to try former president Musharraf was not done according to the law. “The complaint filed against the former president was not filed through the right authority,” Barrister Ali Zafar had testified.

Musharraf was sentenced to death by a special court in Islamabad on December 17, 2019, six years after the trial started. The case was filed by the PML-N government against Musharraf for suspending the Constitution on November 3, 2007, when he imposed emergency in the country.

Special court verdict is void

According to both the federal government and Musharraf’s lawyer, after the high court’s ruling, the verdict issued by the special court stands voids.

Musharraf currently lives in Dubai and was sentenced in absentia as he was unable to appear the court because of his deteriorating health as he has to frequently visit the hospital for his medical treatment.