Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

Pervez Musharraf’s supporters protest in Lahore on Friday. (AP)
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Updated 21 December 2019

Pakistan lawyers back Musharraf ruling judge

  • The government had criticized the wordings of the ruling, saying it would file a reference against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council

ISLAMABAD: The Pakistan Bar Council said on Friday it would file a petition in the Supreme Court to defend a judge who wrote the verdict in the high treason case against the country’s former leader, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.

The government had criticized the wordings of the ruling, saying it would file a reference against the judge in the Supreme Judicial Council.

Justice Waqar Ahmed Seth’s order in the detailed judgment released on Thursday drew widespread criticism for his instruction that the authorities “drag” Musharraf’s “corpse” to D-Chowkin Islamabad and hang it for three days, should he die before the death sentence handed to him be carried out.

The government announced shortly after the release of the judgment that it would move the council — a constitutional body authorized to hear cases of misconduct against the members of the country’s superior judiciary — against Justice Seth for his “despicable” observation in the judgment.

“We will challenge the government’s reference against Justice Seth in the Supreme Court, and defend his verdict in the case,” Syed Amjad Shah, vice chairman of the Pakistan Bar Council, the country’s top regulatory body of lawyers, told Arab News on Friday.

He said that the government’s “mala fide intent” against the judge was exposed by its stance against the verdict. “The government has the prerogative to file a reference against any judge, but under the law it cannot be entertained,” he said.

Shah said the government and other aggrieved parties can file a petition in the Supreme Court against the ruling, but “cannot get a judge removed” through the Supreme Judicial Council on the basis of a judgment.

Musharraf, the 76-year-old former military ruler of Pakistan was handed the death sentence on Tuesday in absentia as he currently resides in Dubai and is undergoing treatment for multiple ailments. He seized power in October 1999 in a bloodless military coup, and remained there until 2008.

The court’s senior lawyers said it was a lengthy and complicated process to file a reference against any judge of the superior judiciary and then get him removed for misconduct, or for physical or mental incapacity.

“The government apparently wants to offset pressure from different sides by filing the reference,” Habibullah Khan, senior advocate of the Supreme Court, told Arab News. “The government wants to show it has adopted a legal course against the judge who used graphic reference in the Musharraf ruling.”

The Supreme Judicial Council, he said, consisted of five members — the chief justice of the Supreme Court, its next two most senior judges and two senior high court judges.

The council may initiate a probe at the request of the president or on its own, if it suspects that a judge may be incapable of properly performing their duties due to physical or mental incapacity, or misconduct.

“If a judge is charged with any offense, he is removed by the president,” he said. “But in Justice Seth’s case, the government is not in a position to establish a cogent case against him.”

However, political analysts said the government was left with no option but to file a reference against the judge after the ruling against the former chief of the all-powerful military.

“The government is trying to save face by moving against the judge,” Zebunnisa Burki, a political analyst, told Arab News. “The government is caught: It can neither support the verdict nor oppose it openly.”


UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

The blast in Beirut hit a grain silo in the port, exasperating Lebanon's already rising food insecurity. (File/Reuters)
Updated 09 August 2020

UK pledges £20m aid for Beirut blast recovery

  • World leaders have joined a virtual summit to coordinate an effective humanitarian response to the Beirut blast.
  • French President promises aid will not go to "corrupt hands"

LONDON: The UK has pledged an additional £20 million ($26.09 million) in humanitarian aid to Lebanon in response to last week’s massive explosion in Beirut.

International Development Secretary Anne-Marie Trevelyan said the money would go to the UN’s World Food Programme to help Lebanon’s most vulnerable.

The figure was promised at a virtual summit held Sunday that was convened by French President Emmanuel Macron. World leaders met virtually to formulate a global response to the devastating explosion and ensuing humanitarian and economic crisis.

Trevelyan said: “The devastation we have seen in Lebanon this week has left people without homes, medical care and wondering how long it will be until the country’s food supplies run out. Today the world is coming together to stand by the Lebanese people, and as one of the biggest donors to this crisis so far, the UK is pledging more urgent support to help all those affected by this terrible disaster.”

The UK has already provided £5 million in assistance and paid for specialist medics to respond to health needs on the ground. It will also send a Royal Navy vessel to assist the recovery.

Other European countries have also promised to send humanitarian aid. Germany has pledged 10 million euros ($11.78 million) and the European Union has promised 30 million euros.

Despite the sizable donations, the price tag for rebuilding Beirut is likely to cost billions of dollars.

There is also widespread distrust among the Lebanese population about the government’s ability to effectively coordinate the blast response and to manage the huge influx of cash.

Macron, addressing this concern on his recent trip to Beirut, said: “I guarantee you, this (reconstruction) aid will not go to corrupt hands.”