Pakistani court dismisses Musharraf’s plea to adjourn high treason case

In this file photo former President Pervez Musharraf can be seen in a hospital in Dubai. (Photo Courtesy – APML)
Updated 12 June 2019

Pakistani court dismisses Musharraf’s plea to adjourn high treason case

  • Former military ruler stepped down from power in 2008, was indicted for high treason in March 2014
  • Since 2016 he has lived in self-imposed exile in Dubai where lawyers and aides say he remains seriously ill

ISLAMABAD: A special court on Wednesday rejected a plea by former military ruler General Pervez Musharraf to adjourn hearings in a high treason case against him on account of ill health. 
The retired general, who came to power in a bloodless coup in 1999, is accused of unlawfully suspending the constitution and instituting emergency rule in 2007 at a time when he was in power.
Musharraf denies the charges. He stepped down from power in 2008 amid mass protests and was indicted for high treason in March 2014. In 2016, he was allowed to leave Pakistan for health reasons that his lawyer argued prevented him from standing trial on treason and other charges. 
Earlier this month, media reported that Musharraf was critically ill and had been hospitalized in Dubai. 
“Musharraf is seriously ill and cannot even walk,” Mehrene Adam Malik, the secretary general of Musharraf’s All Pakistan Muslim League (APML) party, said in a message to the media on Wednesday, adding that doctors had advised the retired military official not to travel. “He will come back to Pakistan as soon as his health settles down.”
In March this year, Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa had said Musharraf would lose his right of defense in the treason case if he did not appear before a special court on May 2. Musharraf missed that hearing, which was adjourned until after Ramadan, which ended on June 5. 


Critics cry foul as Pakistan looks to curb coronavirus 'fake news' on social media

Updated 09 July 2020

Critics cry foul as Pakistan looks to curb coronavirus 'fake news' on social media

  • Government sets up committee to prepare new “legal framework” to tackle coronavirus-related misinformation
  • Rights activists fear the new laws will be used to choke freedom of speech

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan’s interior minister said on Thursday the government planned to introduce new laws to curb coronavirus misinformation on social media platforms in a move that has stoked fears authorities will use the additional powers to choke freedom of speech and chill dissent.
On Wednesday, the National Command and Operation Center (NCOC), a top federal body set up to oversee the government’s coronavirus mitigation efforts, set up a committee under the chairmanship of the interior minister to prepare a legal framework to help the government deal with coronavirus-related “fake news” on social media platforms.
Islamabad has previously struggled to regulate online content mostly by blocking or asking social media companies to remove blasphemous material and other posts that violate the country’s religious and cultural norms and laws or hurt national security interests.
In February, the government approved, and then rolled back, new rules to regulate cyberspace after opponents said they could be used to stifle dissent. Social media companies have also largely shunned obliging to help law enforcement agencies access data and remove online content deemed unlawful.
“Is the government a fool?” the interior minister said to Arab News on Thursday when asked if the NCOC had set up the new committee on the pretext of curtailing free speech or criticism of the government’s coronavirus mitigation policies. “If somebody asks me to suppress social media, I’ll straightaway say that I can’t do it.”
However, he said, the government was resolved to find ways to prevent the flow of false information regarding the pandemic.
These efforts, rights activists say, would allow the government to use the pandemic as an “excuse” to suppress freedom of speech.
“Social media companies have themselves been taking down disinformation and propaganda regarding COVID-19 since such posts go against their community standards,” Usama Khilji, director of Pakistani digital rights group Bolo Bhi, told Arab News, urging the government to improve coordination with social media giants like Twitter and Facebook in order to have inaccurate information removed instead of enacting new “draconian rules.”
Last month, the Pakistan Electronic Media Regulatory Authority issued an advisory to local media houses instructing them not to air coronavirus-related content that was “not based on ground realities” and was likely to create “unnecessary panic.” 
The advisory was seen as a warning to critics of the government’s efforts to fight growing rates of infection.
“If the government wants to counter online disinformation, it can do it by releasing authentic information instead of coercing journalists and media houses,” Iqbal Khattak, who represents Reporters Without Borders in Pakistan, told Arab News. “It must immediately drop its plan to enact new social media rules since we already know its objective is to undermine freedom of expression.”