The Supreme Court on Wednesday upheld former president Gen. (retd.) Pervez Musharraf’s death sentence from 2019 in a “high treason case,” observing his heirs had failed to pursue the case despite multiple notices.
A four-member bench led by Chief Justice of Pakistan (CJP) Qazi Faez Isa and comprising Justices Mansoor Ali Shah, Aminuddin Khan and Athar Minallah announced its verdict a few hours after reserving its ruling following arguments. “The impugned [order] passed on Jan. 13, 2020 by the Lahore High Court (LHC) … is not sustainable and accordingly set aside,” announced the CJP, referring to a LHC ruling that had declared the filing of the complaint, formation of special court, and its proceedings “unconstitutional.” This had led to the abolition of the death penalty against him.
At the outset of the hearing, lawyer Hamid Khan—representing one of the petitioners appealing the LHC verdict—said the appeal filed by Musharraf against his sentence was a “criminal appeal” while his request before the Supreme Court was to set aside the LHC order, which he said was a “constitutional matter.” He then urged the apex court to hear both appeals separately. “In the current case, the Lahore High Court’s jurisdiction and appeal are separate matters,” observed the CJP, adding it wished to hear the arguments of Musharraf’s counsel Salman Safdar first.
Additional Attorney General Aamir Rehman then opposed the appeal filed against the former president’s sentence, saying he was against it.
Safdar informed the court he had no instructions from the former military ruler’s family, adding the family was aware of the case. He further said they were contacted over 10 times since November and noted he was not representing them.
Justice Mansoor Ali Shah remarked the apex court had issued notices to Musharraf directly, with Safdar saying he was also notified through a newspaper advertisement. “I can provide judicial assistance on two situations,” he said, with Justice Shah saying he could assist the court only on the legal situation. He also observed that legally, the appeal stood abated with the death of Musharraf, as his legal heirs had not responded. The court subsequently rejected the appeals against the death sentence, primarily due to Musharraf’s heirs not making any effort to approach the court.
A special court in Islamabad had in December 2019 found Musharraf guilty of high treason and handed him a death sentence under Article 6 of the Constitution. It marked the first time in Pakistan’s history that a military chief was declared guilty of high treason and handed a death sentence for subverting the Constitution. Subsequently, Musharraf passed away on Feb. 5, 2023, while appeals against the sentence—and against a LHC ruling suspending the sentence—were still pending.