ISLAMABAD: A close aide of former Pakistani military ruler General Pervez Musharraf said it was unlikely he would return to Pakistan until the “political environment” was favorable for his return, as the ex-army chief skipped yet another hearing of a high-profile treason case.
Pakistan Supreme Court Chief Justice Asif Saeed Khosa said in March this year that Musharraf stood to lose his right of defense in the treason case if he did not appear before a special court on May 2.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup and stepped down nine years later amid mass protests, was indicted for high treason in March 2014 in a case pushed by the then government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz party.
In 2016, Musharraf was allowed to leave Pakistan for health reasons that his lawyer argued prevented him from standing trial on treason and other charges. The former army chief denies the charges and has since skipped all court hearings in Pakistan.
A special court on Thursday accepted Musharraf’s plea to adjourn hearings of the treason case till the end of the Muslim fasting month of Ramadan.
“General Musharraf is seriously ill, everybody knows that, but that isn’t the only reason he is not coming back to Pakistan,” said Sultan Mahmood Malik, a close aide of the former general.
He said Musharraf was embroiled in a series of “fabricated cases,” and had thus decided to leave Pakistan and stay away till the “political environment” worked in his favor.
“Besides his illness, there are many other reasons for his stay in the UAE which cannot be shared with the media at this moment,” said Malik.
However, Mehrene Adam Malik, the general secretary of Musharraf's All Pakistan Muslim League party, said in a twitter post that the former president's wanted to "return to Pakistan and face the courts," but the date of his return would "only be announced after consultation with his doctors as he is currently under treatment."
The ruling Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf party’s secretary information Omar Sarfraz Cheema said the cases against Musharraf were before the courts and the government hoped “justice will be dispensed and rule of law will prevail.”
Musharraf can face the death penalty if convicted of the treason charges over his suspension of the constitution and imposition of emergency rule in 2007, when he was trying to extend his tenure.
An application submitted by Safdar in court on Thursday said his client suffered from cardiac amyloidosis (congestive heart failure), chronic kidney disease (high creatinine in renal system), excessive somnolence (hypersomnia), spinal injury and fractures. Doctors had “plainly refused” to allow Musharraf to undertake exertion and travel, the application said.
“General Musharraf is caught in a situation where he is highly unlikely to return to Pakistan to face the court cases,” Zebunnisa Burki, an editor at The News, told Arab News. “There is also an issue of trust in the justice system that may be holding him back.”
Burki said it was a travesty that the justice system had failed “to hold a military dictator accountable for abrogating the constitution.”
Political leaders said that it was responsibility of the special court hearing the treason case against Musharraf to ensure that he returned to face the trial.
“We did our job by initiating the treason trial against him [Musharraf], but courts allowed him to flee the country,” opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party Senator Mushahidullah Khan told Arab News. “If he thinks he is innocent and charges against him are politically motivated, he should prove this in the court, instead of avoiding it.”
“He will never return,” Khan added.
“It is unfortunate that our institutions move only against the political leadership,” said Pakistan Peoples Party’s leader Naveed Chaudhry. “He should not be let off the hook only because he is a former army general.”