Lahore court overturns Musharraf death sentence

In this file photo, Pakistan's former military ruler Pervez Musharraf is escorted by security personnel as he prays after he arrived at the Karachi International airport from Dubai on March 24, 2013. (AFP)
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Updated 14 January 2020

Lahore court overturns Musharraf death sentence

  • The former military ruler was sentenced to death on high treason charges by an Islamabad court in December 2019
  • Despite Lahore court’s decision, Musharraf’s case is not over yet, says former Attorney General

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) on Monday overturned the death penalty for former military ruler Pervez Musharraf and declared as “unconstitutional” the special court which sentenced him last month.
Musharraf’s lawyer, Azhar Siddique, told Arab News the court ruled that Section 9 of the Criminal Law Amendment (Special Court) Act under which Musharraf’s in absentia trial took place is unconstitutional.
The former president has been living in self-exile in Dubai and failed to attend the special court’s hearings, prompting the in absentia proceedings.
His conviction by the special court on Dec. 17 focused on the suspension of the Constitution and imposition of a state of emergency in 2007. Neither Pakistan’s parliament nor superior judiciary had validated the action, which under the law is punishable by death or life imprisonment.
High court advocate Malik Muhammad Siddique Awan told Arab News that the special court, which sentenced Musharraf, was established by the Supreme Court of Pakistan and only the Supreme Court “has jurisdiction with regard to any appeal including the formation of court.”
Since the special court is in Islamabad, according to Awan, the Lahore court was not competent to entertain Musharraf’s appeal. “If by any stretch of law any high court has jurisdiction, then it is Islamabad high court and not the LHC.”
“This decision by LHC has actually overruled the verdict against the former military ruler … Now there is no case against Musharraf and he is a free man, like any other citizen of Pakistan,” he said.
According to Ashtar Ausaf Ali, former Attorney General, the case is not over as “the court has only dealt with the procedural faults.”
“The court has acquitted General Pervez Musharraf on technical grounds but did not declare that crime was not committed. Under the law of the land, there is no time limit for criminal proceedings and this case may be re-initiated against him at any time,” he told Arab News. 
Musharraf seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1999 and resigned in 2008 amid public protests.


Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

Updated 19 January 2020

Alice Wells in Pakistan to discuss Afghan peace, regional security

  • The US deputy secretary of state for South and Central Asia visited Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival
  • On Friday, FM Qureshi reminded Washington of Pakistan's help in Afghan peace process and asked for help in FATF issue

ISLAMABAD: Alice G. Wells, chief US diplomat for South Asian affairs, arrived in Islamabad on Sunday on a four-day visit centered on discussions regarding the peace process in Afghanistan, bilateral and regional issues, the US embassy in Islamabad said in a statement on Sunday.
Wells — US Deputy Assistant Secretary of State for South and Central Asian Affairs — was received at the airport by foreign office and US embassy officials. She has been on a tour of South Asia since Jan. 13 and has been to Sri Lanka and India prior to her arrival in Pakistan.
Wells’ visit to Islamabad comes immediately after Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Qureshi concluded his trip to the US where he interacted with senior United Nations and American officials in New York and Washington. 
According to Amir Rana, director of prominent Islamabad-based think tank, Pakistan Institute of Peace Studies, the Afghan peace deal will be top of Wells’ agenda during her Pakistan tour.
Pakistan’s role in recent developments in the Middle East has positioned it as “an effective backdoor communication channel between Iran and the United States,” he added. 
In a news briefing in Washington on Friday, Qureshi strongly urged the US to help get Pakistan off the grey-list of global anti-money laundering watchdog, the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) at a decisive meeting in Beijing next month. A downgrade from the grey-list could result in crippling economic sanctions.
During the briefing, Qureshi said Pakistan had fulfilled its commitments to the US on facilitating the Afghanistan peace process, brought the Taliban to the negotiating table and assisted in releasing western hostages from insurgents — and had met FATF’s demands. 
The foreign minister reminded Washington: “Pakistan fulfilled your expectations. Now, we too had some expectations, what have you done (for us)?”— hinting Pakistan expected the US would help Islamabad in turn.
The US has consistently enlisted Pakistan’s help in facilitating rocky US-Taliban negotiations, which are reported to be inching near a peace deal this month.
“This is a sequel to Foreign Minister Qureshi’s visit, to coordinate the expected peace deal signing with the Taliban and potential US troops’ pullout from Afghanistan,” leading security analyst, Imtiaz Gul, told Arab News. 
Political expert Taimur Shamil told Arab News: “FATF is a tool to politically pressure Pakistan to do America’s bidding in Afghanistan. It... will likely continue till the Afghan issue is resolved.” 
Wells is expected to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan and army chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa during her visit, as well as foreign minister Qureshi.
Her last visit to Pakistan was in August last year.